House panel OKs bill postponing barangay, SK polls to 2023

Vivienne Gulla, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 25 2022 01:22 PM | Updated as of Aug 25 2022 04:22 PM

Voter registration resumes at the Comelec office in Manila on June 4, 2022. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/File 
Voter registration resumes at the Comelec office in Manila on June 4, 2022. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/File 

MANILA — The House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms has approved a substitute bill seeking to postpone the synchronized Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections to 2023.

Voting 11-0, the House panel moved to postpone the polls to the first Monday of December next year from its Dec. 5, 2022 schedule. 

According to the proposed measure, which consolidated over 30 House bills, barangay and SK officials who will be elected next year will begin their 3-year term of office on Jan. 1, 2024.

It further stated that all incumbent barangay and SK officials will remain in office until successors have been duly elected and qualified, unless sooner removed or suspended for cause.

Committee Chairperson and Mountain Province Rep. Maximo Dalog Jr. said postponing the elections would give time for more voters to register, and for the government to apply corrective measures on the honoraria of poll workers, which are still subject to taxes.

“Madaragdagan iyong number of registered voters. Kasi 29 million sana iyong target nila, 24 million lang yata ang nakuha,” Dalog said.

(The number of voters will increase. Their target is 29 million, only 24 million are registered so far.) 

“We recognize that the urgency lies not only on the date, which is fast approaching, but also on the request of the Commission on Elections for this chamber to give them a clear directive as soon as possible," he added. 

In a dissenting opinion, meanwhile, Kabataan party-list Raoul Manuel said postponing the elections sets a dangerous precedent for democracy.

“If Congress will delay an election, it oversteps the principle of making the people choose their representatives and officials. Officials for holdover terms will be effectively chosen by Congress through extension and not through an electoral process,” he said.

If the national government needs more budget for pandemic recovery, it can be taken from other sources such as unpaid taxes, the party-list lawmaker added.

He also expressed concern that delaying the barangay and SK elections might impact the Commission on Elections' (Comelec) preparations for the May 2025 national and local polls.

The substitute bill seeking to postpone the barangay and SK polls will be sent to the House Appropriations Committee. Comelec will also be asked to submit a breakdown of the budget needed should the elections be moved to next year.

“Siguro mas mahal kasi madaragdagan nga iyong (honoraria ng poll workers). According to them noon, during our committee hearing, at least P3 billion is needed sa added ng honoraria, kasi nawala na po ‘yung exemption (from taxes),” Dalog said.

The Comelec earlier said it would need an additional P5 billion if the polls are postponed. It said there would be additional expenses to register more voters, produce more ballots, and procure more equipment. 

Under the substitute bill, the amount necessary for its implementation will be taken from Comelec's budget under the General Appropriations Act and or supplementary appropriations thereafter.

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