Senator Imee Marcos on Thursday said the Commission on Elections (Comelec) should find a way to cut the costs of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections if the Comelec will reschedule the said polls next year.
“We are ready to postpone the barangay and SK elections, but do we want to blow P18 billion on the postponement?” Marcos, chairperson of the Senate committee on electoral reforms, said.
The Comelec has pegged the cost of postponing the said elections to May or December 2023 at P17 billion to P18 billion.
Marcos emphasized this is more than double the P8.45 billion that will be spent if the polls were held this December.
Citing the repeated postponement of the polls – twice during the 17th Congress, once during the 18th – Marcos said it was “time to think long-term” and floated the idea of holding barangay elections a year after the presidential elections.
“This legislative remedy is possible since the Constitution is silent on the terms of barangay and SK officials. Congress could fix barangay elections every six years – the May following the presidential elections, thereby even providing a new administration with a fresh mandate from the grassroots,” the senator said.
Marcos also called for a rethink of the 10-member, barangay-level Sangguniang Kabataan that constantly lacked full membership.
“Elected teenagers tend to leave mid-term to pursue their education or to work. Others could not even be traced,” Marcos said.
“Let’s not force it at the barangay level. We can instead have one youth kagawad per barangay, one youth councilor at the municipal or city level, and a youth board member per province,” Marcos proposed.
If lawmakers decide to postpone the BSKE to next year, Marcos hopes that the polls will be held in May.
The House of Representatives meanwhile is set to deliberate on the proposed postponement of the barangay and SK polls.
This came after the House suffrage and electoral reforms committee, chaired by Province Rep. Maximo Dalog, approved its committee report that contains the substitute bill and sets the date of the next barangay and SK election to the first Monday of December 2023.
A total of 14 lawmakers voted for the approval of the report and only Kabataan party-list Rep. Raoul Manuel opposed the measure.
Comelec chief George Garcia earlier told the committee that the postponement will entail more expenses as the poll body will have to reopen the registration for new youth voters and purge from its list the names of those who have become overaged.
“If we postpone it to March or December 2023, we will have to continue registration of new voters. This will mean additional voters, additional ballots [to be printed], additional teachers [to serve as poll workers], additional precincts, additional election paraphernalia [to buy],” Garcia said. “It will entail additional cost. If we factor the increase in honoraria expense for our teachers, it would be an additional P5 billion.”