House panel okays village polls postponement to October

MANILA A proposal seeking to postpone the May 2018 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections to October of this year has hurdled committee level at the House of Representatives.

The House suffrage and electoral reforms committee, chaired by CIBAC Partylist Rep. Sherwin Tugna, approved Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia's motion to approve the poll postponement with a vote of 14-2.

Meanwhile, 17 committee members voted in favor of Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu's motion to move the schedule of the barangay and SK elections from May 14 to October 8 this year.

The four measures tackled were House Bills 7072, 7128, 7167 and 7217.

Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, author of HB 7072, stressed the need to give the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and other involved agencies the additional time to "further ensure credible and effective barangay elections" considering the coordination costs and expenses of organizing the polls.

"Barangay officials are at the forefront of government service and are important figureheads in the community," Pimentel said.

"In light of their importance to the community, the planned barangay elections must be properly conducted in order to give the electorate the best opportunity to exercise their right to suffrage," he added.

The bill provides that 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.

Meanwhile, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, author of HB 7167, said postponing the barangay and SK elections this May will 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 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.

Source: Philippine News Agency