Congress approves postponement of Barangay and SK Elections

Congress has agreed to move the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections to October 2017, allowing barangay executives to serve until next election season.

The Senate and the House of Representatives approved the the proposal to postpone this year's barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections to October 2017.

House of Representatives, approved on third and final reading a bill postponing the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) election scheduled on October 31, 2017, while the Senate passed its version of the postponement measure moving the elections to the fourth Monday of October 2017.

Senate Bill No. 1112, primarily sponsored and authored by Senate Committee on Local Government Chairman, Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny”Angara, and co-authored by Senators Leila de Lima, Alan Peter Cayetano, Loren Legarda, Joel Villanueva, Cynthia Villar and Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri, was the first bill to be approved for the 17th Congress.

House Bill No. 3504, on the other hand, provides that incumbent barangay officials will remain in their post in holdover capacity unless sooner removed or suspended for cause.

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez emphasized the urgency of passing the measure as he noted that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is mandated to start preparing for the barangay polls within this month.

However, Senate Minority Leader Ralph G. Recto and Sen. Risa Hontiveros voted “no” to barangay and SK polls postponement.

According to Recto, a postponement in the barangay and SK elections is a step which takes away from the people their chances of ousting public officials who are ineffective especially in dealing with the burgeoning drug problem in their own localities. Furthermore, the postponement will only add another year for the "narco-politicians" to remain in power. The Minority Leader also stressed that the issue of funding will continue to persist despite the election postponement and will even become more costly since some election preparations like voting registration shall be repeated.

Sen. Hontiveros echoed Recto's statments, adding that  the bill can send “the wrong signal that the government is not sincere in including the youth in governing the country.”

Resource persons' perspective
Various resource persons were previously invited to share their position on the proposal to move the barangay and SK elections.

Comelec Chairman Andy Bautista said the postponement will give allowance to those who failed to register for the midterm elections. Bautista also noted that only 200 million of the budget has been used within the seven billion accumulated budget from 2015 and 2016. The printing of ballots started in August 21 but was put to hold after receiving word that the president supports the postponement of midterm elections. A total of 411,00 have already been printed starting with the CARAGA region specifically Agusan del Norte and Agusan del Sur.  Bautista also said that Comelec is still looking into using the ballots and changing the date.

National Barangay Operations Director Leocadio Trovela CESO IV and National President of Liga ng mga Baranggay sa Pilipinas Atty. Edmund Abisamis maintained their support for the enactment of the bill, stating the following points

  • Pushing through with the Barangay and SK elections in October 2016 may have a negative impact on the ongoing campaign against illegal drugs and criminality of the present administration.
  • Postponing is more in confidence with the plan to amend the constitution.
  • Postponing will save the government huge funds especially after coming out with the recently concluded national and local elections.
  • Postponing will create a good opportunity for the continuity of the programs and projects that have already started
  • Holding the elections in October 2016 may greatly politicize instead of insolate barangays from politics.
  • Postponing will provide time and opportunity to discuss the possibility of coming up with the needed reforms.

Representatives Edcel Lagman, Miro Quimbo, Egay Erice, and Senior Deputy Majority Floor Leader Juan Pablo Bondoc for their part stressed that the measures crafted for the postponement of the barangay and SK elections are pursuant to the law, particularly RA 9164 and they are not, in any way, tampering with the regularities of the elections.

However, Chairman of the Consortium on Electoral Reform Ramon Casiple said that there is no constitutional basis for the postponement of elections and deemed it as a weakening factor for democratic process.

Not the first time
This is not the first time that barangay and SK elections have been caught in a whirlwind of varying opinions. Barangay elections were postponed four times since 1982. Once passed into law, this year's postponement will be the 5th in history.

According to the Omnibus Election Code, the barangay elections shall be held every second Monday of May and every six years thereafter. The May 1982 elections was the first successful country-wide barangay elections.

The second barangay elections, originally set in May 1988 through RA 6653, was postponed twice: it was first moved to November 1988, then to March 1989.

On February 14, 1998, through the Republic Act No. 8524, the term of office of barangay officials are pinned at five years.

RA 9164 provided for a synchronized Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections on July 15, 2002 and that the next synchronized elections shall be held on the last Monday of October. Furthermore, the law shortened the term of office of barangay officials to three years.

Then, Republic Act No. 9340, rescheduled the October 2005 elections to the last Monday of October 2007.