MANILA -- The House committee on Appropriations has approved the proposal to postpone the December 2022 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections by one year to the 1st Monday of December 2023, but left no clarity on how to fund the additional fund needed that can reach P10 billion.
The approval paves the way for the submission of the proposal to the whole House of Representatives for full action.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is constrained to continue with preparations for the 2022 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan unless Congress approves a postponement bill.
"The December 5, 2022 is less than 100 days away and that the Commission on Elections needs a clear directive from our body in regard to the scheduled synchronized barangay and SK elections," House Committee on Suffrage chair Mountain Province Rep. Maximo Dalog said in his sponsorship speech.
According to Comelec chairman George Erwin Garcia, the agency is prepared to push through with the elections in December.
"As far as the Commission on Elections is concerned, we are performing our duty to at least prepare for the conduct of the election this year in the event that we still push through," he said.
The approved bill mandates that the amount necessary for the implementation of the postponement shall be taken from the appropriations of the Comelec under the General Appropriations Act and/or supplementary appropriations.
There is, however, no provision for the conduct of elections next year in the 2023 National Expenditure Program being deliberated by the same panel at the House.
"As far as our budget for 2023 that we are proposing to Congress we only have P5.2 billion. That is just our agency budget. There is no budget whatsoever for any electoral exercise or electoral exercises as we are proposing to Congress for the 2023 budget," Garcia said.
The Department of Budget and Management's (DBM) representative told lawmakers that the 2022 budget for the elections can be carried over to the next year.
But the DBM noted the postponement will also mean a more expensive election.
"The proposed postponement of the Barangay/SK Elections will entail an increase in funding requirements attributable to the opening of registration, to new voters and establishment of additional poll precincts which in turn will necessitate additional poll workers and logistics," said Perpetual Judea Quiason of the DBM.
"In the absence of additional revenue measures to fund the significant budgetary implications of the postponement of the 2022 Barangay and SK Elections, it will be very difficult for the national government to fund the requirements for the implementation of the bill," Quiason added.
Garcia said the cost may increase by as much as P10 billion depending on the new date of the election.
He is also seeking an increase in the honoraria of poll workers to cover the 20 percent taxes imposed on them.
"If our intention is to help our teachers or our electoral board members or election workers then that may not be enough because the computation of P8.4 billion is only to give the regular honoraria being received by our electoral board members," Garcia said.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. had vetoed the tax exemption for poll workers' honoraria.