By Ben Rosario
The House of Representatives today voted on third and final reading to postpone for the third time the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections, a move that many believed to be an exercise in futility.
Despite the overwhelming 164 affirmative vote against the 27 oppositors for the passage of the bill, congressmen, including a principal proponent of the measure, admitted entertaining doubts the measure will be enacted into law.
With only two days in regular plenary sessions remaining, there is still no Senate counterpart for House Bill 7378.
Oppositors accused those who voted for the passage of the measure of being motivated at extending their own term of office because cancellation of the barangay polls could provide a reason for a similar deferment of the 2019 midterm elections.
Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Ty Pimentel, one of the three principal authors of the bill, admitted that even if President Rodrigo Duterte certifies the bill an urgent administration measure, serious time constraint will block its enactment.
“I don’t think Senate will have time to rush a counterpart measure in the event the president will certify it,” Pimentel said.
HB 7378 seeks to cancel the synchronized barangay and SK elections on May 14 and hold in October this year.
The cancellation of the May 14 polls will be the third such postponement initiated under the Duterte administration.
The barangay and SK polls were originally scheduled in October 2016 but Congress, heeding the appeal of President Duterte, cancelled it and rescheduled its holding to October 2017.
Another deferment was approved in Congress also upon the request of Duterte who wanted to appoint barangay officials in order to oust community executives involved in illegal drugs.
A few days before the supposed holding of the 2017 polls, Duterte signed Republic Act 10952 rescheduling the barangay poll exercise to May 14, 2018.
Among the oppositors of the measure are Representatives Raul Del Mar (LP, Cebu); Lito Atienza (Buhay Partylist); Edcel Lagman ( LP, Albay); Carlos Zarate (Bayan Muna); Emmi de Jesus (Gabriela Partylist); Sarah Elago (Kabataan Partylist); Gabriel Bordado (LP, Camarines Sur) and Edgar Erice (LP, Caloocan City).
In voting against the measure, Del Mar reminded his colleagues that the term of office of an elected official is considered to be a covenant between the official and the constituents.
“If will be a total term of two years additional if we approve this bill. In a representative democracy, we are elected for a specific period of time, and this term of office is a covenant between our electorate and us,” he said.
Lagman stated: “I vote NO to a third postponement of the barangay and SK elections. Another postponement is inordinately offensive to the right of suffrage. It is not only grossly aggravating. It is also patent recidivism.”
Objectors aired strong suspicion that the postponement of the elections is mainly the result of the majority bloc’s plan to defer the 2019 elections through a move to amend the 1987 Constitution.
“This is a mind-conditioning campaign to justify another postponement,” Elago said.
Erice chided his colleagues for moving to postpone the village polls for their own self-interest.
“We are postponing the elections for the wrong reasons. We want to postpone to serve our own personal interests!” the Caloocan City solon stated.