House Deputy Minority Leader and Bagong Henerasyon Rep. Bernadette Herrera on Wednesday cited the importance of preserving the funds intended for the barangay and SK poll exercise and ensuring its availability for the same purpose at a later date.
Herrera made the statement after the House committee suffrage and electoral reforms decided to postpone the conduct of the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) to Dec. 4, 2023.
“Prudence dictates that in the event of postponement, the appropriation for this year’s BSKE should remain with Comelec and continue to be available for the same purpose afterward,” Herrera said.
The Bagong Henerasyon partylist representative stated assurance from the Comelec that no public funds would go to waste if the BSKE scheduled in December this year are postponed anew.
Last Tuesday, the House suffrage and electoral reforms committee approved a proposal to postpone the BSKE scheduled on Dec. 5, 2022 to Dec. 4, 2023, believing it would help the government save a lot of money that can be diverted to financial aid for the poor and beef up the country’s COVID-19 response.
According to Comelec, the budget for the BSKE is still in its coffers and remains unspent except for the very minimal amount.
The appropriation for the 2022 BSKE amounts to P8.441 billion, of which P1.045 billion is for personal services (PS) and P7.397 billion is for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE). Herrera noted that the allotment for BSKE has already been released to Comelec and the incurrence of obligation is currently ongoing. The poll body, she said, will continue its preparatory activities for the BSKE until the enactment of a law deferring the conduct of the elections to a later date.
“Thus, if the postponement is to be pursued, it should be done immediately to avoid expenses that could result in wastage like the printing of ballots,” Herrera pointed out.
“However, it should be noted that in case of postponement, there is a possibility that the original ₱8.441 billion budget will no longer be sufficient for the eventual conduct of the BSKE because of inflation and the increased number of registered voters,” she said.
Herrera advised the Comelec to realign any unused PS funds for BSKE under the 2022 General Appropriations Act (GAA) to MOOE and capital outlays to make it available even in 2023.
She, however, explained that such realignment must be subject to General Provision No. 68 of the 2022 GAA on Cash-Based Budgeting.
“Also, Congress must provide a line item appropriation for the conduct of BSKE in the 2023 GAA to cover any deficiency,” Herrera added.
The lady lawmaker said this may also include an additional appropriation of ₱5 billion for the increase in poll workers’ honoraria and operating expenses due to an increase in the number of registrants.
At the same time, Herrera explained that the unobligated allotments or savings from the postponement of BSKE cannot be realigned for the requirements of the stimulus package because of the prohibition against cross-border transfers of appropriations.
“It should be noted that the Comelec, an independent constitutional body, enjoys fiscal autonomy as spelled out in Section 5, Article IX of the 1987 Constitution,” Herrera said.
She, however, said the cash programmed to support the BSKE may be freed up and used to fund the stimulus package provided there will be a supplemental appropriations bill originating from the House and supported by a certification by the National Treasurer that funds are actually available.
The last barangay and SK polls were held in May 2018, giving current officials a term beyond the usual three years.
In 2020, then President Rodrigo Roa Duterte signed Republic Act 11462 postponing the BSKE originally scheduled on May 10, 2020. The next BSKE is scheduled on December 5, 2022.