IF THE October barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections are postponed for a year, the Commission on Elections’ 2017 budget must be increased to finance the estimated P3.4-billion estimated cost of electing the officials of the country’s 42,028 barangays, Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto said Sunday.
As both houses of Congress finalize legislation that will postpone the October village polls, Recto raised as “the missing link in the discussions” the need to appropriate funds for next year’s elections in the 2017 national budget.
He made his statement even as the National Youth Commission expressed alarm over the reported plan of some legislators to abolish the Sangguniang Kabataan after the impending postponement of the Barangay and SK polls.
Group chairwoman Aiza Seguerra appealed to the legislators to reconsider their plan because it would disenfranchise the Filipino youth.
“The SK is a unique feature of Philippine democracy,” Seguerra said.
“It is the most concrete expression of the constitutional mandate that encourages civic engagement among young people. By providing this venue for young people to participate in governance, we are investing in the next generation of effective local and national leaders.”
Recto said that, from P16.2 billion this year, the Comelec’s budget would fall to P3.3 billion next year “on the assumption that no national election will be held in 2017.”
The Senate is about to report out a bill postponing the Oct. 31, 2016 joint Sangguniang Barangay and SK elections to the last Monday of October 2017.
To enforce the postponement, Recto said, the Comelec must be given additional funds in its 2017 budget.
“The postponement bill must have as its companion measure the national budget,” he said.
He said that while the Comelec could still use the budget for this year’s barangay and SK elections for next year, “there are appropriations there which are valid for only one year, so there will be deficiencies.”
There would also be new expenditures, such as the registration of first-time voters.
“Also, for the sake of transparency and accuracy, it would be better if such a large expense will be spelled out in the national budget,” Recto said.
Explaining the need to set aside funds, Recto warned that, “by postponing the elections without providing funds, some quarters might speculate that we will file another bill next year postponing the elections again.”
He said the argument that postponing the elections would save funds was not true, “for you are not canceling the election but only postponing it.”
“So instead of spending one peso this year, you will delay spending it by a year, so at the end you will still have to spend that one peso,” Recto said.
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