MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE, 6:01 P.M) The House of Representatives has approved on second reading the bill postponing the barangay elections from May 14 to October 8 this year.
A counterpart bill, however, has yet to be filed at the Senate, where it apparently has little support. Several senators have said that there may not be enough time to tackle the measure since Congress will go on break starting March 23 and will return on May 14.
Congress has postponed the village polls twice: from October 31, 2016 to October 23, 2017 through Republic Act 10923; and, from October 2017 to May 2018 through Republic Act 10952.
President Rodrigo Duterte had said he wanted the barangay elections postponed because drug lords would fund candidates and eventually control communities.
LP: POSTPONEMENT MEANS ‘NO-EL’ IN 2019
Relatedly, Partido Liberal senators on Wednesday warned that the postponement of Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections will pave the way for a no-election scenario in 2019.
“There is no initiative in the Senate and no reason to postpone the Barangay and SK elections again,” said Sen. Bam Aquino, co-author and co-sponsor of the SK Reform law.
“Hayaan natin na ang taumbayan ang bumoto ng pinunong lalaban para sa kanila at sisiguraduhin na ligtas at may ginhawa ang kanilang pamilya,” added Sen. Bam Aquino, referring to the House’s move to postpone the village polls to October 2018.
FILL COMELEC VACANCIES – BINAY
In the view of Senator Nancy Binay, filling up the three vacancies in the reiterated her appeal to Malacañang to fill the three vacancies in the Commission on Elections (Comelec) would negate the need to reset the polls.
“We reiterate our appeal to Malacañang to appoint three more commissioners to Comelec to ensure smooth preparations for the May 14 barangay polls,” Binay said Wednesday.
“As far as the Senate is concerned, [the barangay and Sanguniang Kabataan elections in May] is a go,” she added.
Binay said the vacant commissioner spots in Comelec are an urgent concern and that filling these vacancies would negate the need to postpone the barangay polls.
“There’s no need to postpone the barangay elections if Malacañang would fill the vacancies at Comelec,” she said, speaking in Filipino.
Binay added that while it is possible for a four-member en banc to function, it would be troublesome because it is the legal minimum for the poll body to function.
“The Comelec divisions always have a problem with quorum, considering three vacancies,” Binay said.
Last year, then elections chief Andres Bautista stepped down from office as he was set to face impeachment hearings. Meanwhile, Commissioners Christian Robert Lim and Arthur Lim stepped down form their posts on February 2.
This leaves Comelec with four active members: Commissioners Sheriff Abas, Rowena Guanzon, Luie Tito Guia, and Al Parreño.
On Monday, the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms voted 14-2 to postpone the Barangay and SK elections, which will be held in May.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan, for his part, said the House’s act is an indication that it will railroad moves to amend the 1987 Constitution to pave the way for a shift in the form of government to federalism.
“Indikasyon lang ito na plano nilang madaliin ang pagbabago sa Saligang Batas para maisabay ang plebisito sa Oktubre,” said Pangilinan, adding that moves to amend the Charter should not be hurried.
“Napakahalaga ng ating Saligang Batas para madaliin ang pag-amyenda nito. Kailangan munang konsultahin ang lahat ng sector bago ito gawin upang matiyak na walang maiiwan,” added Pangilinan.
Pangilinan is visiting different parts of the country to consult different sectors regarding plans to amend the Charter as chairman of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes.
Sen. Franklin Drilon said the House’s move proved his earlier revelation about a plot by administration allies in the House of Representatives to railroad the amendment of the 1987 Constitution for a shift to federalism so they cancel the 2019 elections and extend their terms.
Drilon earlier warned of plans to postpone the village polls to October to coincide with the plebiscite on a new Constitution.