Umali calls for barangay, SK elections postponement to focus on cha-cha, federalism

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 11) — Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali said Sunday he wants the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections in May postponed, so the Congress could focus on other matters.

“We want to concentrate on cha-cha (charter change), on federalism, on BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law), there’s just too many things to do and we do not want to be preoccupied with local or barangay elections,” Umali told CNN Philippines.

He said the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms will discuss the matter in a hearing Monday, saying the panel's “direction is to approve the postponement.”

Umali, who chairs the House Justice Committee, said if the Senate does not approve of the measure, then elections will continue on May.

With only a few weeks left before both the House and Senate adjourn on March 24, he said it is “never too late” to approve the postponement. The two chambers will resume their sessions on May 14, the supposed day of elections.

House Bills No. 7072, 7128, 7167, and 7217 were earlier filed by Reps. Johnny Ty Pimentel, Jose Panganiban Jr., Reynaldo Umali, and Edgar Sarmiento for the postponement of the local elections.

The four bills sought to amend Republic Act No. 9164, which synchronized both the barangay and SK elections.

On February, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the elections will push through.

Around 42,000 barangays nationwide will vote in the upcoming polls. The barangay elections were last held in October 2013.

In 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte postponed the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan polls from October 2016 to October 2017 after expressing fears of drug money getting into the elections.

CNN Philippines' Correspondent Makoi Popioco contributed to this report.