House panel backs postponement of brgy, SK polls to May 2018

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 14 2017 06:39 PM | Updated as of Aug 14 2017 09:21 PM

MANILA - The House Committee on Suffrage has approved the consolidation of 6 bills seeking to postpone the 2017 October Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections to May 2018.

The committee voted 19-2, prompting Suffrage Committee Chariman Sherwin Tugna to say the motion to postpone the elections to May 2018 is sustained. 

ACT Teachers Party List Rep. Antonio Tinio and Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas were the 2 dissenters.

The authors of the bills are Representatives Ace Barbers, Lord Allan Velasco, Jose Panganiban, Jonatahan Sy-Alvarado, Johnny Pimentel and Winnie Castelo.

The bill will now be endorsed to the plenary of the Lower House. 

President Rodrigo Duterte has been pushing for the postponement of the barangay elections, claiming that 40% of all the barangay captains in the country are involved in drugs.

"Do not commit the mistake of calling elections now because narco-politics has entered into the mainstream of Philippines politics," he earlier said. 

Quezon City 1st District Rep. Vincent Crisologo said that unless the election is postponed, "it is the drug money that will dominate this election."

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, however, rejected the measure, saying postponing the elections would trivialize the electoral process and negate the sovereign will. 

"I also disagree with using the bloody campaign against the drug menace as a reason," he said. 

National Liga ng mga Barangay President Edmund Abesamis said barangay officials are backing the postponement amid concerns that drug syndicates and personalities will use drug money to "influence and infiltrate the election…"

Abesamis, however, could not say how many of their members are involved in drugs.

He added that barangay officials want to reschedule the elections to after the 2019 midterm elections. 

Czareanah Aquino of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency said that from 2011 to July 31, 2017, 266 barangay kagawads have been arrested for illegal drugs links, while 87 barangay chairmen have been arrested during the same period.

Elections Commissioner Arthur Lim said that without a law postponing the elections, the preparations will continue as scheduled. 

"We started printing the ballots last August 9 and the procurement for certain forms and equipment is in progress. We are acting as though the elections will not be postponed. Unless there is a law in our hands the preparations will have to go on its normal course," Lim said. 

The Commission on Elections has so far spent P197 million of the P7 billion earmarked for the national polls. 

As of August 11, 2017, Comelec has printed 15,021 ballots for the barangay and SK polls for Batanes.

The House already agreed in a caucus last week to reschedule the elections after President Duterte cited the need to clear the ranks of barangay leaders of those involved in illegal drugs.