A Basilan congressman has bill has been filed seeking the postponement of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections set on December 5, this year.
Meanwhile, the Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives refiled a bill aimed at exempting poll workers’ honoraria and other benefits from income tax.
Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman filed House Bill 3384 proposing to amend Republic Act 9164 to reset the barangay and SK elections from Dec. 5 this year to the second Monday of May in 2024.
Hataman said the government would be able to save P8 billion if the polls were deferred, adding it would be “a significant amount for a cash-strapped government.”
“Across the globe, more than 80 countries have decided to postpone their national and subnational elections due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In fact, the recent elections in the Philippines is considered the most expensive one in the country’s history in an effort to have ‘COVID-proof’ elections,” Hataman said.
“More than P1 billion was allocated for the purchase of items labeled as ‘COVID-19 supplies:’ face masks, alcohol, plastic acetates, and antigen tests for election officers who attended training,” he added.
Hataman said the budget to be used for the holding of this year’s barangay elections could be realigned for economic stimulus and COVID-19 response programs for the benefit of the entire nation.
Hataman’s bill also calls for a hold-over arrangement for incumbent barangay and SK officials to perform their capacities until their successors are elected in May 2024.
The Makabayan group filed House Bill 3271 proposing to exempt from income taxation the honoraria, allowances, and other financial benefits granted by the Commission on Election to persons who rendered poll duties.
The measure was among the pieces of legislation vetoed by President Marcos as it contradicts the objective of the government’s Comprehensive Tax Reform Program.
Aside from making the honoraria, travel allowance, and other benefits granted to poll workers exempt from tax, the bill also excludes poll workers’ honoraria and allowances from gross income.
Marcos said in his veto message, “the measure runs counter to the objective of the government’s Comprehensive Tax Reform Program to correct the inequity in the country’s tax system and negate the progressivity of the reforms introduced under RA (Republic Act) 10963 or the TRAIN (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion) law.
Moreover, the studies of pertinent government agencies on the revenue loss is too substantial an impact to be foregone.”
The Makabayan lawmakers said that the Election Service Reform Act or Republic Act 10756 provides for exemption from income tax the compensation received by poll workers in national and local elections.
“The ESRA significantly increased the honoraria, allowances, and other compensation of volunteers for election service, most of whom are still public school teachers who sit as members of the Boards of Election Inspectors. However, the law is silent as to the tax treatment of such compensation,” the group said.
“While there should be no change in the tax treatment of the honoraria, and other compensation for election service—which have never been subjected to income tax prior to the passage of the ESRA and the 2018 barangay and Sanggunian elections—recent rules and regulations of the Bureau of Internal Revenue reversed the situation,” the group said in the bill’s explanatory note.
“This destroys the spirit and intent of the ESRA, which is to compensate the hardships of persons rendering election service,” it added.
The Makabayan group consisted of Reps. France Castro of ACT Teachers, Arlene Brosas of Gabriela and Raoul Daniel Manuel of Kabataan.