'A waste of billions': Comelec twits push to defer barangay, SK polls

Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 13 2018 03:36 PM

MANILA - The Commission on Elections and its employees union on Tuesday said any postponement of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections in May would be a waste of people's money, a conflict in preparation, and an infringement on the right of people to vote.

Comelec Spokesperson Dir. James Jimenez said the poll body is 80 to 85 percent ready for the May elections after spending billions of pesos in taxpayers' money.

"Mahirap magbigay ng running total but we do have a working budget of P5 [billion] to P6 billion," he said.

"We have already printed more than 55 million ballots, we [are] on track to print 18 more million ballots, which will be completed in 20 days," he added.

Atty. Angela Kristine Royandoyan, Comelec Employees Union NCR Secretary General, said indelible ink purchased for the nationwide elections this May will be unusable if the elections will be postponed anew. 

She added the government has already spent a lot of money to print voters' lists for every poll precinct.

"Hindi namin alam kung by October 2018 ay magco-conduct pa ng additional voters' registration. Posible madagdagan ang mga botante. Magbabago na naman ang mga na-print na namin na bulto-bultong list of voters," she said.

"Mas marami po ang magagastos, mas marami ang masasayang na efforts," she added.

Royandoyan said that if barangay elections will be postponed to October, it will create conflict with the filing of candidacy for yet another election - the senatorial and local elections in May 2019.

"Mas magiging logistically mahirap po para sa amin na pagsabayin o halos magkalapit ang barangay elections na dapat noong 2016 pa," she said.

Jimenez said as far as Comelec is concerned, the elections will push through on May 14. He said the postponement, which has the approval of the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms yesterday, is not yet a law that Comelec is bound to follow.

"As far Comelec is concerned tuloy po ang halalan. It takes a law to postpone the barangay and SK election. All we have is a committee ruling. Yung pinaka-clincher dyan, kailangan meron counterpart sa Senate," he said.

Senator Tito Sotto, in an interview with DZMM, said no bills have been filed in the Senate with regards to postponement of the May elections, and that the same is not a priority agenda of the administration.

"As of Friday, wala pang nagfa-file ng counterpart bill para sa postponement ng barangay election. Nandito kami ngayon sa LEDAC, at wala sa agenda ng LEDAC ang postponement. Karamihan na sa amin ngayon ay hindi na pabor sa isa na namang postponement," Sotto said.

Only around 5 session days are left before Congress and Senate go into recess, but Comelec said there is always that possibility that the President will call for a special session. 

"While we are saying there is no time left, it is still not impossible that Congress can actually move quickly and get this done. It has happened before. Nakita natin that if Congress feels na mahalaga ang batas at kailangan ipasa, nagagawa nila 'yan ng paraan," Jimenez said.

But more importantly, the entire Comelec institution is hoping that there will be no more postponement because they are duty bound to ensure and protect the right of suffrage of every Filipino voter and another postponement will be an erosion to the democratic process in the country.

"We don't want the public to feel disheartened. We don't want them to feel they were shut out of the democratic process," Jimenez said.

"Binbigyan natin ng karaptan ang ating mga mamamayan para makapamili o makapagbago ng isip kung sakali man na hindi nila nagustuhan yung mga naihalal nung nakaraan," Royandoyan said.