Postponement of barangay, SK polls unconstitutional - Lagman
By Rhaydz B. Barcia
LEGAZPI CITY --- Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay’s first district is annoyed by the proposition to defer the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections set on December 5, this year.
The Bicolano legislator said the proposed holding of the elections in December 2023 is unconstitutional and a costly exercise on the part of the government due to bigger fund requirement.
Last week, the House of Representatives approved on second reading the consolidated House Bill 4673 which also mandates the holding of the elections in the first week of December, next year.
He said that Chairman George Garcia of the Commission on Election has told lawmakers earlier that holding the elections either in May or December 2023 would make election expenditures balloon from the current allocation of P8 billion to P18 billion.
House Bill 4673, once approved, will extend the terms of the barangay and SK officials for another year. The Comelec said that there are SK officials who need to vacate their respective offices this year for exceeding the age requirement.
Proponents of the postponement maintained that the idea is being pursued to give way to the planned realignment of funds for the government to finance the various Covid-19 responses which include the stimulus package for economic recovery.
In a statement, Lagman said that the Comelec enjoys fiscal autonomy. “The funds released to the Comelec is no way that it can be countermanded or revoked even by the executive branch for other purposes. The Comelec’s remaining unused funds will constitute a continuing appropriation under the sole jurisdiction of the Comelec,” he said.
The proffered reason that the Comelec needs a respite after having conducted the May 2022 national and local elections is not acceptable because the commission itself has repeatedly said that it is ready to conduct the barangay and SK elections in December, this year, he said.
“No less than Comelec Chairman George Garcia relayed to legislators that a postponement of the barangay elections to December 2023 will be a costly exercise because additional funds would be needed to the tune of P18.358 billion constituting the P7.5-billion savings as continuing appropriation and an additional budget of P10.858 billion,” he said.
The original October 2016 barangay and SK polls were postponed to October 2017. From there, it was postponed to May 2018, which was again reset to December 2022.
The SK and barangay elections, according to Lagman, are the bedrock of democratic governments. “Democracy at the grassroots must be assured by holding regular elections for barangay and SK officials and should not be imperilled by repeated postponements.” he said.