Congress pushes for Brgy and SK polls’ postponement

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FOR THE SECOND TIME. Just like in 2010, Filipinos will participate in another automated elections next year. Photo by Kevin C. Tatco

LEGISLATORS HAVE passed at least 21 proposals to the Lower House aiming the postponement of the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections scheduled for October next year, five months after the May 2013 national elections.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said that the bills have received considerable support from the House and the Senate, who are planning to synchronize the presidential polls in 2016 with the barangay and SK elections originally scheduled next year.

Enrile added that agreements within the Senate aim to extend the village officialsí term to six years and allowing only one reelection.

One house bill that extends the postponement to October 2015 has gained ground in the Lower House and is currently on third reading.

Majority of these proposals aim to extend the officialsí three-year term by two to three years. Some of them were Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardoneís House Bill 5794 which seeks to reset the elections to May 2014 and four years thereafter; and Iloilo Rep. Augusto Syjucoís House Bill 5987 which sees October 2014 as an ideal date for the next elections.

However, House Bill 5750, authored by Cebu Rep. Rachel Marguerite Del Mar, proposes to move the elections to October 2014 but does not suggest prolonging the officialsí three-year term.

Justifying the postponement

Despite the variation of the bills, legislators had similar reasons for their keenness on pushing the proposal because of budget and time constraints.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, author of another proposal, stated that P3.6 billion, the total expenditure during the 2010 elections, proved to be too costly for the Philippines whose budget deficit was approximated to reach P349 billion by the end of the year.

Rodriguez highlighted how expensive elections in the country are for the candidates and the government. These expenditures further intensify when village and national elections occur in the same year.

On the other hand, Rodriguez added that the three-year term of the officials does not give enough time to establish unity and stability in barangay leadership and affairs.

Internal perspective

For Loyola Heights Barangay Captain Caesar Marquez, the idea of postponing the elections only promotes complacency to underperforming officials.

"I would not [postpone] the elections because there are barangay officials who are not doing their jobs so itís better if they would be replaced." said Marquez.

Complacency was likewise the concern of sophomore Bret Monsanto, SK President of Tuburan, Cebu, who said that "having more time will give us more opportunities to finish our projects; however, the postponement of the elections might decrease the productivity of the SK."

On the other hand, sophomore Ivy Flores, SK President of Gapan City, Nueva Ecija, had mixed views and said that "[the postponement gives a] longer time for us to serve, but for others, longer time to benefit from their position and do nothing."

Learning from the past

Lawyer Nicolo Villonco, a graduate of the Ateneo Law School last 2011 and the SK Chairman of Brgy. Forbes Park from 2002 to 2007, said that following the postponement of village polls, "in particular [with] the Sangguniang Kabataan, you end up getting better services from your youth leaders."

"Because they get to stay in power longer, they are more attuned to their jobs," Villonco added.

But despite his optimism, Villonco also mentioned that the consequences of a delay are generally greater, that the postponement would deprive others of their opportunities, and that the proposal is politically motivated.

Issues in the SK

"One of the biggest setbacks for the Sangguniang Kabataan is youíre expecting 15-year-olds to act as executives of their barangay," said Villonco, emphasizing the need to raise the minimum age requirement of SK officials.

Moreover, Monsanto stated how partisan politics hinders the materialization of their projects, citing instances when the barangay captain would not approve proposals if they do not belong to the same party.

Flores also mentioned a problem in her barangay. "Sometimes, the barangay captain freezes our budget, or worse, uses them without proper permission."

ìIf we always depend on the elderly, nothing will happen to the system,î she added, stating the dire need for reforms in local government units across the country.

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