MANILA - The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) on Tuesday said it was considering delaying the printing of ballots for the October 2017 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections pending legislation seeking to postpone the local polls.
Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez explained that in the past, the commission had deliberately slowed down the pace of its barangay elections preparations whenever faced with a proposal in Congress to suspend the electoral exercise.
"The proposal to delay printing of the ballots, therefore, is not an entirely novel idea. However, it must be noted that any slowing down of Comelec preparations must be based on sufficiently high levels of probability of postponement, such that the postponement can no longer be considered a question of 'if' but of 'when'," he said.
Jimenez added that the determination of the existence of such conditions depended solely on the judgment and discretion of the COMELEC en banc.
Toward this end, the en banc is continually and actively monitoring developments related to the postponement of the elections, the poll body said.
The barangay elections initially set in October 2016 was moved to October this year. Bills were later proposed in both the Senate and the House further postponing the local polls, citing the need to cleanse village councils of drug-linked officials.
For his part, ACT Teachers Party-list Representative Antonio Tinio told off Comelec for urging Congress to act on bills postponing barangay elections.
"It's inappropriate for Comelec to urge the postponement of elections, since it's basic mandate is to implement elections laws, which includes ensuring that they take place as scheduled," Tinio said.
Tinio also countered proposals to postpone the elections again, which was already postponed from last year.
"As to the proposal itself, a second postponement would be utterly unjustifiable. The basic democratic principle of electoral mandate with clearly defined terms of office must be upheld," he said.
"Moreover, the additional proposal of replacing barangay officials with presidential appointees would be highly problematic, given the anti-democratic tendencies displayed by Malacañang at this point, notably the declaration of martial law in Mindanao and the appointment of scores of ex-military officials in government," he added.
President Rodrigo Duterte had expressed preference for postponing the village elections again to allow him to purge the ranks of barangay officials tagged in the narcotics trade.