The Covid-19 pandemic is enough reason for lawmakers to postpone the barangay (village) and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections and move them to the first Monday of December 2023.
During Tuesday’s House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms hearing, many lawmakers said that the P8-billion budget allocated for the barangay and SK elections must be used instead for government initiatives that would address more pressing economic and public health issues.
“Until the WHO (World Health Organization) finally declares the pandemic is over, the country should not let its guard down in dealing with the virus,” said Isabela 6th District Rep. Faustino “Inno” Dy V.
“Our barangay (village) officials, the Sangguniang Kabataan (youth council) included, have been doing the heavy-lifting in the fight against Covid-19,” he noted.
Dy is one of the authors of the 38 bills that have been filed and consolidated in the House of Representatives seeking to defer the conduct of the elections.
The committee, voting 12-2, approved a motion postponing the barangay and SK elections originally scheduled for Dec. 5 this year.
The House panel likewise carried the motion setting the tenure of those who will be elected in December 2023 and thereafter for three years starting their term at noontime of Jan. 1, 2024.
Dy explained that as government frontliners, “our barangay officials have been active in information drives against the virus, in implementing health protocols, in ensuring all forms of government assistance are orderly distributed, and taking an active role to make sure that the country’s vaccination program is efficiently implemented.”
Cebu Rep. Rachel Marguerite Del Mar, author of HB 133, said that the country has suffered from the pandemic as well as the May 2022 elections that caused division among the electorate.
“On the issue of savings, we really would not be able to save. We can use this as a quick fix, we need more funds to fight the pandemic,” House Deputy Speaker and Pampanga Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr. said.
Lawmakers also cited the deferment of the upcoming polls will allow continuity in government operations at the barangay level
since village officials are already knowledgeable about Covid-19 protocols.
“It is imperative, if not crucial, to ensure continuity in government response,” Dy said.
In its Aug. 15 National Covid-19 Case Bulletin, the Department of Health (DOH) reported that there were 28,008 new coronavirus cases from Aug. 8 to 14, or an average of 4,001 new cases a day.