Politics

House panel approves postponement of village, youth council elections to Dec. 2023

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A BARANGAY hall in Mati City. — DAVAOORIENTAL.GOV.PH

A HOUSE of Representatives committee on Tuesday voted to postpone the village and youth council elections by a year to December 2023.

The House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms, chaired by Mountain Province Rep. Maximo V. Dalog, Jr., approved a still unnumbered substitute bill setting the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections to Dec. 5, 2023.

Several bills were filed on the postponement, mostly citing the benefit of saving about P8 billion that had been allocated for the nationwide electoral exercise and realigning this fund for pandemic-recovery measures.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) had been carrying out preparations for the supposed voting in December this year.

Comelec Chairman George Erwin M. Garcia told the committee that they will need a new law to provide accurate direction on whether or not they will continue with other preliminary activities such as ballot printing.

“We at the Comelec will just abide by the mandate of the Congress and the Executive as far as postponing the election is concerned,” Mr. Garcia said.

“We were given P8.449 billion as the budget for the barangay and SK elections,” he said. “As of today, we have spent only P800,000 of that money.”

Mr. Garcia also pointed out that the postponement would actually cost an additional P5 billion as it would mean resuming voter registration, printing more ballots, and tapping more election workers.

Members of the committee voted 12-2 in favor of postponement.

Only ACT-Teacher Party-list Rep. France L. Castro and Kabataan Party-list Rep. Raoul Danniel A. Manuel voted against the measure.

Elections for youth leaders and barangay officials — considered as frontline government workers as they cover the smallest political unit — was supposedly set in May 2021 but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Incumbent officials were elected in 2018, which was also a postponement from the supposed 2016 voting.

Under the law, barangay and SK elections should be held every three years.

Poll watchdogs National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) and Kontra Daya, among other groups oppose the postponement citing that it would be a violation of the right of suffrage. — Matthew Carl L. Montecillo