INCUMBENT village chairmen and councilmen will serve in a hold-over capacity under a proposed law resetting the Sangguniang Kabataan and barangay elections from October 31, 2016 to October 23, 2017 that the House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms will approve this afternoon, a House official said on Monday.
Citizens Battle Against Corruption (Cibac) party-list Rep. Sherwin Tugna, the panel chairman, said the House is poised to approve House Bill 3384, principally authored by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, which provides “the hold-over provision under Republic Act 9164 as amended by Republic Act 9340 shall remain applicable and in full force and effect under this Act.”
However, Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista said that while the commission is waiting for Congress’ decision, it will continue to prepare for the barangay and SK elections slated on October 31.
Bautista also announced that the Comelec will register new voters next year if Congress passes the law postponing the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan polls to give who failed to register another chance to sign up.
He recalled that only about two million of the more than three million expected new voters turned up during the two-week registration period that ended on August 1.
Bautista said Congress must come out with a decision within the next few days so the Comelec would stop the preparations for elections.
He repeated that the Comelec was neutral on the issue of postponement, but he preferred that the elections be postponed because it may cause “elections fatigue” since the national elections were conducted only in May this year.
“I do not want to pre-empt the vote and decision of the members of House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms [today]. But I believe that the members of the majority in the Lower House finds the basis for postponement meritorious,” Tugna said.
Alvarez authored the resolution, along with Deputy Speakers Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of Pampanga, Raneo Abu of Batangas, Miro Quimbo of Marikina City, Mylene Garcia Albano of Davao
City, Mercedes Alvarez of Negros Occidental, Bai Sandra Sema of Maguindanao , Gwendolyn Garcia of Cebu, Eric Singson of Ilocos Sur, Fred Castro of Capiz, Sharon Garin of AAMBIS-OWA party-list, Ferdinand Hernandez of South Cotabato, Pia Cayetano of Taguig; House Majority Floor
Leader and Rodolfo Fariñas of Ilocos Norte and Rep. Pedro Acharon of South Cotabato.
Arroyo rallied behind the decision of Malacañang to postpone barangay and SK polls to allow Congress to introduce reforms in the system, including the proposal of Alvarez to abolish SK and barangay councilmen.
Arroyo said she agrees with the position of the House leadership that “posponement of the barangay and SK elections from October this year to next year is necessary” for two major reasons: first, the Palace has not filled up all vacancies in government; and second, Congress would want to amend the Local Government Code.
Quoting Alvarez, Arroyo noted that the SK and kagawad posts cost the government P24 billion a year without the SK officials and kagawads doing any legal work.
The SK posts alone cost the government P8.5 billion annually, Arroyo added, quoting the position of House leadership through Alvarez.
“The money to be saved from abolishing the SK and kagawad posts can be used to augment the low pay of those who are really working in the barangays—the purok leaders, health workers, tanods and daycare workers,” Arroyo added, again quoting Alvarez.
For his part, Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte called on the Commission on Elections to immediately prepare for yet another round of voter registration, especially for young Filipinos, amid the likelihood of the Congress writing soon enough a new law postponing to next year the synchronized barangay and SK elections due this October.
“With the likelihood of the House of Representatives and Senate passing in the weeks ahead a new law postponing the Oct. 31 barangay and SK elections to next year, the Comelec should prepare for yet another round of voter registration, especially for the benefit of voting-age young Filipinos, and conduct this vital pre-election exercise right after President [Rodrigo] Duterte signs such new legislation into law,” Villafuerte said in a statement.
Duterte earlier expressed support for the postponement of the barangay and SK balloting, which the Comelec is supposed to conduct less than half a year after the May 9 national and local polls.
Some 54 million registered for the May polls and more than three million more registered for the barangay and SK balloting, a report said.
The Comelec held its last registration for the barangay and SK polls
from July 15 to 30. The Voter’s Registration Act of 1966 provides for a system of continuing registration of voters.