House okays bill on barangay, SK polls postponement

MANILA The House of Representatives on Monday approved on third and final reading a measure seeking to postpone the May 2018 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections to the second Monday of October of this year.

With 164 affirmative votes, 27 negative with zero abstention, the lower chamber passed House Bill 7378, which seeks to move the schedule of the barangay and SK elections from May 14, 2018 to October 8, 2018.

The bill hurdled second reading and committee level last week.

The Barangay and SK elections were postponed twice, from October 2016 to October 2017 and then to May 2018.

There is no counterpart measure filed in the upper chamber. Senate leaders said they might not have enough time to approve the polls deferment as Congress would go on Lenten break on March 23 and would resume session on May 14.

Under the bill, all incumbent barangay officials shall remain in a holdover capacity, unless sooner removed or suspended for cause, until their successors shall have been elected and qualified.

The bill also provides that subsequent elections shall be held on the second Monday of October 2021 and every three years thereafter.

Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, one of the bill's principal authors, said postponing the barangay and SK elections this May would give Congress more time to determine the proper structure of the government when it transitions into a federal system.

The House leadership has earlier planned to submit the proposed new federal charter as a referendum or plebiscite simultaneously with the scheduled barangay and SK elections in May 2018.

"Considering these circumstances, the schedule is too cramped if the elections will be held simultaneously with the plebiscite for the proposed Federal Constitution," Umali said.

Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, also an author of the bill, said the planned barangay and SK elections must be properly conducted to give the electorate the best opportunity to exercise their right of suffrage.

Given the coordination costs and expenses of organizing the elections, it is suggested to give the Comelec and other involved agencies additional time to further ensure credible and effective barangay elections, said Pimentel.

Meanwhile, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said another postponement is "inordinately offensive" to the right of suffrage.

"These postponements are mockery of the right of suffrage and subversive of the republican system," Lagman said in his explanation of a no vote.

Source: Philippine News Agency