House OKs barangay, SK elections postponement on second reading

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 14) — The House of Representatives passed  on second reading the bill postponing anew the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections.

From the original schedule of May 14 this year, the bill seeks to reschedule the local polls to October 8, the second Monday of the month.

Bill sponsor Sherwin Tugna, who also chairs the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms, said the lawmakers want the elections postponed to give the Commission on Elections (Comelec) longer time to prepare for the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections.

He added they also want the elections postponed so it can be held simultaneously with the anticipated plebiscite on charter change.

"I-move to October 2018 and at the same time magkaroon po ng plebisito or referendum yun atin pong pag-shift from unitary to federal form of government," Tugna said.

[Translation: Move the elections to October 2018, at the same time as the plebiscite or referendum on our shift from unitary to federal form of government.]

ACT Teachers Party-list Representative Antonio Tinio, however, pointed out that the Comelec itself said that it is ready to hold the barangay and sangguniang kabataan elections this May.

"Napakalinaw naman po ng pahayag ng Comelec na 100 percent handang handa sila na ituloy ang barangay at SK elections ngayong mayo. Sa katunayan nagastos na po nila ang signipikanteng bahagi ng 5 billion pesos na budget na nilaan para sa eleksyon na 'to," Tinio said.

[Translation: It's very clear that the Comelec said they are 100 percent ready to push through with the barangay and SK elections in May. In fact, they've already spent a significant amount of their P5 billion budget for this election.]

He adds, the Comelec even said during a hearing that they will have difficulty holding the elections in October because it will be held almost simultaneous with the filing of Certificates of Candidacy for the 2019 elections, and simultaneous with the preparations of the local and national elections.

Tinio also noted that there is still no assurance that a plebiscite on charter change will be conducted in October, hence, the election postponement has no basis.

Congress only has three session days left before it adjourns on March 24. Both the House and Senate will resume their sessions on May 14, the supposed date of the local elections.

If the two Houses of Congress fail to pass the bill, the Barangay and SK elections will proceed as scheduled.

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