House approves bill on barangay, SK polls postponement on 3rd reading

Published September 20, 2022, 2:48 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

The proposed measure seeking to defer, yet again, the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) polls has been approved on third and final reading by the House of Representatives.

(PPAB)

Getting the final nod of congressmen was House Bill (HB) No.4673, titled, “An Act postponing the December 2022 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections, amending for the purpose Republic Act No.9164, as amended by Republic Act No.10656, Republic Act No.10923, Republic Act No.10952, and Republic Act No.11462. and appropriating funds therefore.”

During plenary session Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 20, the House held a nominal vote for the third reading passage of the rather urgent bill. The result was 264 “yes” votes, six “no” votes, and three “abstain” votes.

The approved measure–which was a consolidation of 43 separate bills–was immediately transmitted to the Senate.

The objective of the measure is “to postpone the Dec. 5. 2022 synchronized barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections to the first Monday of December 2023 in order to allow the Commission on Elections and local government units to better prepare for it and for the government to apply corrective adjustments to the honoraria of poll workers”

It was supposed to be passed on third and final reading Monday, but didn’t push through after Albay 1st district Rep Edcel Lagman questioned the physical quorum in the House.

One of the solons who voted in the negative Tuesday, Makabayan member Gabriela Party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas, underscored just how long it has been since the country last held a village and youth polls.

“Polls for barangays and SKs have been repeatedly delayed since 2016. The October 2016 elections were moved to October 2017. Then, it was postponed to May 2018, which was then rescheduled to December 2022. Ang mga officials na nakaupo na sa pwesto mula noong 2016 ay nasa pwesto pa rin hanggang ngayon (The officials who were in power back in 2016 are still in power today),” she said during the explanation of her vote.

Brosas said the further deferment of the polls “subverts the constitutional provision on the regular conduct of local elections and the people’s right to elect a new set of local leaders”.

“Mr. Speaker, it is essential for the Filipino people to exercise their right to vote and elect a local official that will truly serve them,” she stressed.

On the other side of the spectrum, Deputy Speaker and Batangas 6th district Rep. Ralph Recto justified the postponement by focusing on the economics of the situation.

“The astronomical price tag of holding a national election has been the main driving argument in postponing barangay elections,” Recto said in his yes vote explanation, a soft copy of which was sent to House reporters.

“This year, for example, the Comelec (Commission on elections) obligation budget is almost P27 billion. This comes up to P400 per voter, far bigger than the expense ceiling of P10 per voter for a presidential candidate,” he said.

“I, too, am a proponent for cancellation. I, however, anchor my bill on the idea that the budget for barangay elections be used in the meantime for activities that will improve food security,” Recto said, noting that some P8.5 million will be saved by Comelec from not holding the village and youth polls at this time.

“More than the election fatigue cited by the Comelec in invoking that the elections be postponed, it is the people’s hunger that should benefit from the postponement dividend. While that temporary transfer of funds is not explicitly commanded in this bill, we all know that it gives the government more fiscal maneuver room to direct funds to this endeavor,” the former senator added.

 
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