MANILA (UPDATED) — A House panel voted Tuesday to postpone the Dec. 5, 2022 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections (BSKE) for a year.
The House Committee on Suffrage, voting 12-2, made the move as it convened to tackle bills seeking to defer the barangay polls.
The panel picked the first Monday of December 2023 as the new date for the BSKE. It also voted to include in the bill that the winners of the 2023 BSKE shall begin their terms on Jan. 1, 2024, for a period of 3 years.
Authors of the 38 bills for the postponement took turns justifying their pitch. Many of them cited the savings from the postponement of the election, as well as the need to heal the "wounds" of the May 2022 elections.
Some also cited the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to give incumbents more time to implement their programs.
"This isn't the first time we are postponing barangay elections, it's something that we do every so often. So therefore I earnestly request our committee and our colleagues in the plenary to pass this bill," Senior Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said.
Commission on Elections Chairperson George Garcia and Commissioner Rey Bulay, who is in charge of the barangay and SK polls, were present in the discussions.
The House panel voted a day after the Comelec said it would push through with the scheduled printing of ballots in September.
Poll watchdogs Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), Legal Network for Truthful Elections (Lente) and National Citizens Movement for Free Elections expressed support for the conduct of the December 2022 elections
"We believe that the said election has long been overdue, being postponed for 3 times already," Carlo Africa of the Lente said.
"It defeats the purpose of the 3-year term limit which is supposed to be consistent and periodic," he added.
The last barangay and SK elections were held in 2018.
The supposed May 2020 election for barangay leaders and youth councils was moved to Dec. 5 this year through a law.
Comelec chief Garcia said the poll body was ready to hold the elections any time, as the schedule of elections is a "political question."
"As far as the Commission on Election is concerned, we recognize that the power to postpone the election or even to extend the term of barangay and SK officials rests solely [on] the absolute prerogative of Congress," Garcia said.
"Kami po sa Commission on Election we will just abide by the mandate of Congress. 'Wag naman pong 2024 kasi by that time we will be preparing for the 2025 elections," Garcia added.
(We at the Commission on Election we will just abide by the mandate of Congress. Just please don't postpone it to 2024 because by that time we will be preparing for the 2025 elections.)