Candidates who are 25 years old by next year’s Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections will be screened and will not be allowed to run for office, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said Thursday.
Comelec Chairman George Erwin Garcia said the poll body will refuse to accept certificates of candidacy (COCs) of over-aged SK aspirants to prevent the filing of numerous petitions for cancellation and disqualification.
About 42,000 current youth council chairmen and over 293,000 councilors have already served for five years since they were first elected to the SK in 2018.
Garcia stressed an SK candidate cannot run for election if they are 25 years and one day old on the actual date of the elections—October23, 2023—according to Republic Act No. 10742.
“If they are 24 this December but (turning) 25 next year, or 24 now but 25 past one day on the actual day of the elections on October 23, they cannot run anymore. They should be exactly 24 years old on the election day itself next year,” he said in a press briefing.
This is based on a recent Supreme Court ruling, wherein it was held that an aspirant who is more than 24 years old, even for a day, is not qualified to run for any position in the SK elections.
With this, there will no longer be a need to file thousands of motu proprio petitions to cancel/deny due course to COC for overage aspirants and save the young applicants from the trauma of facing suits, the Comelec said.
During the last SK elections held on May 14, 2018, Comelec received more than 6,000 petitions for cancellation and disqualification related to over-aged candidates.
The winning SK officials elected in 2018 were originally to serve until June 30, 2020, but since the 2020 elections were postponed to 2022 in 2019, their terms were also extended to January 1, 2023.
Republic Act No. 11935, signed Oct. 10 by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., postpones the 2022 Barangay and SK elections to the last Monday of October next year – effectively doubling the term of 41,995 current SK Chairmen and 293,365 Councilors.
RA 11935 states the BSKE elections will be held every 3 years thereafter. It said the term of office of elected barangay and SK officials shall start at noon on Nov. 30 after their election.
Before the May 2018 elections, barangay and SK elections had been postponed twice – first from October 2016 to October 2017, then from October 2017 to May 2018.
With the latest postponement, continuing voter registration, a bigger budget, and a redesign of the ballot template are some of the Comelec’s new concerns.
Garcia said the poll body might need to stop the printing of ballots for at least a week to reflect the new date of the elections.
The new ballots will bear the new election date of October 2023 instead of Dec. 5, 2022. A total of six million ballots have already been printed ahead of the December polls.
The Comelec is also set to issue a resolution stating that printed ballots bearing the December 2022 date can still be used in next year’s manual elections.
Another effect of the postponed elections is an expected uptick in the number of registered voters.
Garcia said Comelec would resume registration of voters from November 2022 to May 2023, with the additional registrants to be included in the final count of total ballots that need to be printed.
Local poll offices will be instructed not to print the list of voters for now due to the continuing registration.
The Comelec chief said the filing of certificates of candidacy on Oct. 23-29, 2022 would not push through due to the postponement. The election gun ban and campaign period are also expected to be deferred.
Garcia rejected proposals to realign the Comelec budget for the polls, saying the measure signed by President Marcos mentioned continuing appropriation.
He said Comelec would need a bigger budget for next year’s election due to the larger number of voters.
“We said that if the election will be postponed by May, we said that we’ll be needing P17 billion. If the election will be postponed by December of next year, [the additional budget will be] by P18 billion,” he told ANC.
“It was postponed by October. So, maybe we’ll be needing about P17.5 billion and therefore P17.5 [billion] minus what is remaining with the commission.”
“If we have right now P7.5 [billion], then we’ll be needing an additional P10 billion more,” he added.
Garcia said this would be used for additional election paraphernalia, the printing of ballots, registration of more youth and regular voters, and additional honoraria for electoral board members.
Comelec will also propose to Congress that the honoraria for teachers serving as poll workers in next year’s manual elections should be tax-exempt, he said.
“We have to properly compensate their efforts,” Garcia added.
Meanwhile, the special elections in Cavite’s 7th Congressional District to fill the seat vacated by Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla will be conducted in February 2023, Garcia said Thursday.
Garcia said this special election will be automated to lessen the poll body’s expenses. Comelec will utilize the vote-counting machines (VCM) used in the May 2022 elections.
“We plan to conduct other activities like the filing of candidacy in December of this year,” he said in a press conference.
Garcia said that if only one aspirant files a certificate of candidacy, he or she will be automatically proclaimed the winner and the special elections will thus not push through, citing the Republic Act 8295 or an act providing for the proclamation of a lone candidate for any elective office in a special election.
“In July, the House of Representatives adopted a resolution calling on the Comelec to conduct a special election in the seventh district of Cavite after Remulla, the elected congressman in the said locality, was appointed Justice secretary.
Garcia added that the Comelec is also eyeing to conduct two more plebiscites before the year ends—one to ratify the conversion of the municipality of Baliwag, Bulacan into a component city; and another to ratify the conversion of the City of San Jose Del Monte into a highly urbanized city.