CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – At this stage, it’s just a matter of time before the House of Representatives approves a proposal to postpone the barangay and youth elections scheduled this December, two congressmen from Northern Mindanao said on Friday, August 5.
But it’s different in the Senate where its members have taken note that the present barangay and Sanggunian Kabataan (SK) officials are already overstaying because of the penchant of officials for seeking a postponement every time the village elections are just around the corner, said Senate minority leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III.
Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Representative Rufus Rodriguez said there was already a consensus in the Lower House to move the twin elections from December 5 to either 2023 or 2024.
The proposed dates in the Lower House include May or October 2023, or May 2024, said Rodriguez, adding that he is among the congressmen who favor the postponement of the elections.
Lanao del Norte 1st District Representative Khalid Dimaporo said he too was certain that the barangay and Sanggunian Kabataan (SK) elections would be postponed again.
Congressmen, he said, have already agreed to speed up the passage of the House bill, filed by Davao Oriental Representative Cheeno Miguel Almario, which seeks to hold the village and youth elections after 2022.
Almario’s House Bill No. 1367 seeks to move the two elections to October 9, 2023, to allow the country to focus on recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and buy more time to “heal wounds” caused by the just-concluded national and local elections.
In the Senate, senators Jinggoy Estrada and Francis Escudero filed separate proposals to postpone the barangay and SK elections, but they differed on their preferred dates.
Estrada proposed to hold the elections on December 4 next year while Escudero preferred it on May 13, 2024.
But while the consensus in the Lower House is for postponement, many of their counterparts in the Senate have not been very clear about where they stand on the issue – at least for now.
“There is no clear consensus [in the Senate],” Senator Pimentel told Rappler on Friday, August 5.
Pimentel added, “Law making is determined by majority vote. In the House, the vote may be clear but in the Senate, it is not.”
He said senators were still discussing the pros and cons of the proposals, and have noted that the incumbent barangay and SK officials have overstayed already as a result of postponements.
“That should be a point to consider,” Pimentel said.
The previous administration had repeatedly postponed the village and SK elections since 2016.
The first was the scheduled October 2016 elections that the Duterte administration moved to October 2017, and then again, to May 2018.
The subsequent elections were supposed to take place in May 2020, but the Duterte administration had it postponed to December 5, this year.
Dimaporo said postponing the barangay and SK elections again would be justified given the damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It would also give the barangays a breather following the emotionally-charged and tension-filled national and local elections in May, Dimaporo said.
Congressmen said the more than P8-billion government budget for the village and youth elections this year can be used instead for pandemic response.
Dimaporo said replacing the current barangay and SK officials who led the barangays during the first two years of the pandemic, and at this time when the country is still recovering from it “will be counterproductive.”
Renato Magbutay, Commission on Elections (Comelec) director for Northern Mindanao, said the poll body was prepared for the December elections.
Magbutay told Cagayan de Oro-based broadcaster Magnum Radio that he preferred to proceed with the December elections “so that incompetent officials can be replaced,” but postponing it was the call of Congress.
Saffy Basman, a village councilor in Barangay Panggao Saduc in Marawi City, said he was disappointed with those moving to postpone the village and youth elections, pointing out that its proponents were trampling on the most basic of democratic processes in the country.
“It’s the right of villagers to choose their local leaders that’s at stake here,” Basman said. – Rappler.com