House agrees to postpone barangay, SK elections to May 2018

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 8) — A caucus of the House of Representatives on August 7 agreed to again postpone the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections to next year.

PBA party-list Rep. Jericho Nograles said the lower house wanted the polls in May 2018 instead of October 23 this year.

He added lawmakers also agreed to retain sitting officials in a hold-over capacity.

"I am expecting mixed reactions from different Barangays and violent reactions in the more troublesome areas plagued by drugs and drug coddlers," Nograles said in a statement. "The only way to fight them is to get the police and PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency) involved to catch these scalawags."

However, the Senate has yet to endorse a similar proposal.

Sen. Sonny Angara said he won't object if the majority will postpone the elections.

"The Senate probably has to discuss this given the time element," he said in an August 8 statement. "The money can be spent for the rehab of Marawi or even to help fund free tuition for higher education."

Meanwhile, Sen. Kiko Pangilinan is against the move.

"I belong to the minority in the Senate and my position is that the elections should push through," he said in an August 8 statement. "Since this is an administration measure, I believe Sen. Dick Gordon, who is also vice chairman of the committee and part of the Senate majority, should take the lead."

If both houses approve the measure, it would be the second postponement for the polls, which were originally scheduled last Oct. 31, 2016.

Read: Senate, House approve on final reading to defer barangay, SK polls

Concerns over narcopolitics

President Rodrigo Duterte said in a September 2016 speech wanted the elections deferred because of "narco-politics" or local politicians supposedly involved in illegal drug trade.

Read: Duterte inclined to postpone barangay polls to avert narco-politics

"I am afraid that the drug money will seep into the electoral process," he said. "You will just be adding to our headache people, na kung sino manalo ngayon, [that whoever would win] those that are funded by drug money will win."

Duterte also said in December 2016 that dozens of barangay officials were in the "narco-list," which contains personalities allegedly connected to the illegal drug trade. Meanwhile, the President said in March 2017 that he was eyeing the appointment barangay officials instead of holding elections.

Read: Duterte eyes appointment, not election, of barangay officials

"We are looking for a way to appoint barangay captains, but the mechanism of how to go about it, I'm going to a compromise with the church and everybody," he said. "They can nominate, so we can do away with shady characters."

'2019 the ideal date'

Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Spokesperson James Jimenez said on August 8 that the agency is concerned about the postponement as the new date is right in the middle of the 2019 midterm elections.

"It might complicate issues because you're essentially going to be splitting the focus of people preparing," he said. "Again, whatever the law turns out to be, whenever the law says the elections will be held, thats what COMELEC will go by."

Jimenez said the poll body could slow down its preparations for the barangay elections like lowering its daily targets for ballot printing, which is scheduled to begin on August 9.

He added 2019 would be the most ideal date for the barangay polls.