A committee in the House of Representatives on Tuesday approved the proposal to move the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections to Dec. 5, 2023, which were supposed to be held on the same day this year.
During the hearing of the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms, at least 12 members voted in favor of the measure.
This was even after the Commission on Elections (Comelec) told the group that postponing the village and youth council elections for at least a year will cost the government P5 billion, on top of the P8 billion allocated for the local polls.
However, Comelec Chairman George Garcia said the poll body will abide by the law should Congress approve the postponement measure.
While the Comelec would be ready whether the polls would be conducted this year, in 2023, or in 2024, Garcia said the additional P5 billion would include the expenses for registering the returning and new voters, as well as increase the poll watchers’ honorarium.
“If we are going to postpone the elections and increase the honorarium of poll workers, on the assumption that Congress will be kind enough to increase the honorarium, plus the expenses for the continuing registration, we need an additional P5 billion,” he said.
Party-list Reps. France Castro of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers and Raoul Manuel of Kabataan voted against the postponement.
They said the voters of the barangays and those who registered for the SK elections will be disenfranchised because they will be deprived of the chance to choose their leaders.
Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. moved to vote for the postponement of the elections to the first Monday of December 2023.
The committee, chaired by Mt. Province Rep. Maximo Dalog, also approved Barzaga’s motion that the term of office of those who will win the December 4, 2023 elections will start at noon on January 1, 2024. They would have a three-year term.
Dalog’s committee also approved the holdover provision wherein incumbent Barangay and SK officials shall remain in office until their successors assume office unless they are removed or suspended.
Deputy Speaker and Pampanga Rep. Aurelio Gonzales, one of the authors of the proposal, welcomed the committee’s decision to postpone the elections.
He said the savings to be generated from the postponement should be used for COVID-19 pandemic response and financial aid to the poor.
Garcia said Comelec aimed to register 29,088,496 voters for the barangay and SK polls but was only able to register 24,457,363.
He said if the elections are deferred anew, the poll body expects the remaining 4,631,133 voters to be registered.
The Comelec chief likewise opposed the postponement of the local barangay and SK elections to 2024 as pushed by other lawmakers, saying it would need to prepare for the 2025 mid-term elections by that time.
Congress should not be worried about the Comelec’s capability to hold the elections because it is “ready, willing, and prepared,” Garcia added.
The poll chairman stressed that the commission had so far spent P800,000 from the P8.449 billion budget allocated for the conduct of the 2022 barangay and SK elections.
With less than four months left before the scheduled barangay and SK elections, the Comelec would start to procure supplies and the printing of ballots, Garcia said. Unless directed by law, the poll body is mandated to prepare for elections even if there is talk of postponing them.