Congress action on Charter change bid likely to postpone barangay elections

Published January 8, 2018, 10:00 PM

by Restituto Cayubit

By Ben R. Rosario

Delay in Congress action on the Charter change bid will likely trigger another postponement of the barangay elections and will further guarantee a “no election” scenario in 2019.

House Asst. Minority Leader Eugene De Vera (ABS Partylist) and Asst. Majority Leader Aurelio Gonzales (PDP-Laban, Pampanga) said that if the majority in Congress will push for a synchronized holding of the barangay elections and Charter plebiscite, canceling the May barangay election can be a strong option.

De Vera and Gonzales are authors of Resolution of Both Houses No. 08 proposing a federal government system.

De Vera and Gonzales, who had espoused the holding of the 2019 polls on schedule, said that the delay in the drafting of a new Constitution will also result in a scenario where the 2019 mid-term elections will be cancelled and all incumbent elective officials be allowed to remain in office.

The two solons said Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s proposal to grant all lawmakers and local officials three more years in office after 2019 will prevail.

In their assessment of the legislative calendar, the two lawmakers admitted that Congress will be racing against time to present a new Charter for plebiscite which Alvarez and other House leaders want to hold simultaneously with the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan polls in May.

“The legislative schedule is quite tight. We have only 60 days and not more than 90 days to present the draft for the May plebiscie,” De Vera told a news forum yesterday.

“If we really want to save money by holding simultaneous polls, then there is a likelihood that we postpone the barangay elections. But if Congress is ready to present the revised Charter to the people by May, then there is no need to cancel the barangay polls,” said De Vera, a member of the House Committee on Constitutional Reforms.

Originally scheduled in 2016, the barangay polls was rescheduled for May 2018.

While the Lower House is set to start plenary debates for House Concurrent Resolution No. 09, the Senate has yet to initiate committee study of its counterpart measure.

HCR No. 09 proposes to convene Congress into a constituent assembly for the purpose of amending or revising the 1987 Constitution.

De Vera lamented that despite having the luxury of time to act early on the proposed shift to federalism, Congress is now on the rush to put in place a new Charter.

“If we were able to finish the constitutional amendments much, much earlier, then we don’t need a holdover of incumbent officials,” he said.

The opposition lamwaker said a holdover has only become necessary because the transitory provisions of a new Constitution will require it in order to “pump prime” the economy during the transition to a new system of government.

“The Speaker has a point in his proposal to extend the term of office of all elective officials,” De Vera added.

De Vera and Gonzales filed RBH No. 08 that contains an 83-page proposed Constitution centered on a federal system of government. The measure is the only one with a complete constitutional draft among the 29 Charter proposals studied by the Committee on Charter Revisions chaired by Southern Leyte Rep. Roger Mercado.

Filed in 2016, RBH 08 has become the basis for House deliberations on Charter amendments. In its transitory provisions, the measure proposes the holding of the 2019 elections as originally scheduled.