2022 barangay and SK elections

Comelec urged to make categorical stand on postponement of barangay polls

Dwight de Leon
Comelec urged to make categorical stand on postponement of barangay polls

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Rappler

The Comelec previously said it will abide by Congress' decision on the proposed postponement of the barangay elections, but warned that a delay would incur additional costs

MANILA, Philippines – A poll watchdog called on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to make clear when it wants to hold the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections (BSKE), after proposals to postpone its conduct in December 2022 hurdled the committee level in the House of Representatives.

In a statement on Monday, August 22, the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) argued that it is within the Comelec’s constitutional powers to make such a decision.

Namfrel cited Article IX-C of the 1987 Constitution, which said that the poll body has the power to “decide, except those involving the right to vote, all questions affecting elections, including determination of the number and location of polling places, appointment of election officials and inspectors, and registration of voters.”

“The phrase ‘all questions affecting elections’ is broad enough to include setting the date of the BSKE. After all, the Comelec is an independent constitutional commission, under Article IX, Section 1 of the Constitution,” the group said.

Acting Comelec Chairman George Garcia has said the poll body will just abide by the whatever decision the Congress comes up with in connection with postponement calls, but pleaded not to delay it until 2024, when preparations for the 2025 midterm polls would move into full swing.

He had also warned Congress about the consequences of deferring the conduct of the polls in December.

“If we are going to postpone the elections and increase the honorarium of poll watchers, on the assumption that Congress will be kind enough to increase the honorarium, plus the expenses for the continuing voter registration and such other additional [expenses], we need another P5 billion,” Garcia reminded lawmakers.

Comelec urged to make categorical stand on postponement of barangay polls

That explanation of Garcia disputed arguments made by some congressmen who believed that postponing the polls would save government money.

Around P8 billion has been allotted for the conduct of the barangay and SK polls in December, an amount that some legislators want to use instead for pandemic response.

Other reasons the lawmakers cited in calling for the postponement of the December polls include:

  • to allow continuity in government operations at the barangay level, since village officials are supposedly already knowledgeable about COVID-19 protocols
  • to allow the government to “heal” after the divisive May 2022 elections

Namfrel, however, is not convinced with these justifications.

“[T]his stability and continuity has no worth if not backed by a renewed mandate from the people. A lot has changed since the 2018 BSKE. After the last four years, incumbents have shown whether they could be trusted in carrying out their programs and projects,” it said.

“As to the need to recover from the divisiveness of the May 9 polls, every election is inherently divisive, because candidates campaign why they should lead their communities. Even if the BSKE is postponed to May 2023, December 2023, or even to 2024, it will still be divisive,” Namfrel added.

Recent village and youth council polls in the Philippines have been postponed multiple times.

The October 2016 polls were first moved to October 2017, then deferred again to May 2018, when it finally pushed through.

The subsequent barangay elections should have been held in May 2020, but was moved to December 2022, in order to save the government some P5.7 billion, according to the bill’s proponent Senator Imee Marcos. – Rappler.com

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers local government units and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.