House committee votes to postpone barangay, SK polls to Dec 2023

Published August 16, 2022, 1:49 PM

by Raymund Antonio

The House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms on Tuesday, Aug. 16, postponed the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections, initially scheduled on Dec. 5, 2022, to the first Monday of December 2023.

Citizens line up to register with the Commission on Elections (FILE PHOTO/MANILA BULLETIN)

Winners of the barangay and SK polls in December 2023 will begin their terms on Jan. 1, 2024 for a period of three years.

The House panel met on Tuesday via Zoom and in-person to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of the long-awaited barangay and SK polls. The panel, in the end, voted 12-2 in favor of the postponement, with the two “no” votes coming from Makabayan bloc Reps. France Castro of ACT Teachers Party-list and Raoul Manuel of Kabataan Party-list.

The lawmakers noted that the government funds allocated for the barangay and SK elections, amounting to some P8 billion, could instead be used for the country’s Covid-19 pandemic response initiatives.

Former president and now House Senior Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of Pampanga 2nd District was present in the meeting, and said that the filed bills on the postponement of the polls differed on the dates that the elections should be held.

Her House Bill 480 is one of the 38 bills seeking the 2022 barangay and SK elections postponement, but she was pushing for the conduct of the polls in May 2024 instead of December 2023.

For the former president, postponing the barangay and SK elections was “something done every so often when there is a need for it.”

“We only differ in terms of when elections will be held. On my part, my bill provides for May 2024,” Arroyo said.

READ: Solons want barangay, SK polls to push through sooner than later

Isabela 6th District Rep. Faustino “Inno” Dy stressed that the postponement would not only save government funds from the actual conduct of the polls, but also from their training once the new officials were elected.

Cebu 1st District Rep. Rachel Del Mar, who authored House Bill 133, cited the pandemic and the recently held national and local elections as reasons for the postponement.

“The NLE has just been concluded. To conduct BSKE this year will add to the present division of the electorate. Another reason is there would be additional expenditures for the conduct of the said elections on the Comelec,” she said.

Leyte 4th District Rep. Richard Gomez also mentioned the pandemic as a reason for the postponement of the barangay elections.

“There’s a surge in COVID-19 cases; all barangays are activated to protect our people. There will be very little time to teach new barangay officials on COVID-19 protocols,” he said.

“I am pleased with the outcome. The budget for SK and Brgy elections can be used to address more pressing issues like food security,” Gomez wrote in a statement.

The previous administration repeatedly postponed the barangay and SK polls since 2016.

The first was the scheduled October 2016 elections that the Duterte administration moved to October 2017, and then pushed 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.

Not everyone during the House panel’s hearing agreed to postpone the elections.

Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) Secretary General Eric Alvia and its voter education director, Arwin Serrano, opposed the postponement of the elections

Alvia said the polls are a way to “seek accountability” from the leaders elected to these positions years ago, and the electoral process is the best opportunity for citizens to exercise their will.

Serrano also said Congress “needs to rethink” another proposal to increase the barangay officials’ terms from three to five years.