House committee authorizes village reset and Saskatchewan polls

(UPDATE) THE House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms has approved the postponement of the barangay (village) and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK or Youth Council) elections to the first Monday in December 2023.

The committee met on Tuesday to discuss proposals by various lawmakers to postpone elections due to be held on December 5 this year.

During the meeting, the committee heard from resource persons, including the President of the Electoral Commission (Comelec), George Garcia, who stated that Comelec “is ready, willing and prepared to organize the elections, whether this year or next year.”

He also said the postponement of the election means voter registration will have to be reopened.

In response to a question from a lawmaker about the additional expenses Comelec will have if the elections are postponed, he said that “we will register new voters, which will entail costs”.

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Later in the meeting, lawmakers voted 12-2 to postpone the December 2022 Village and SK elections.

The proposed postponement still needs to be discussed in plenary.

In 2019, then-President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law a measure to move the Village and SK elections from May 2020 to December 5, 2022.

If said elections are postponed to the first Monday in December 2023, those elected shall take office at noon on January 1, 2024.

Comelec said it would also respect Congress’s mandate to postpone the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (BSKE) elections.

“We at Comelec will simply respect the mandate of Congress and the executive branch in terms of postponing the elections, be it May 2023, December 2023. But hopefully not 2024 because, at that time there, we will be preparing for the 2025 elections,” Garcia said.

A new law, Garcia said, would give Comelec specific direction as to the next steps the constitutional body would take, which would include continuing with voter registration or halting ongoing preparation for the supposed poll at the end. end of the year. .

“We were given 8.449 billion pesos as budget for Barangay and SK elections. So far, we have only spent 800,000 pesos of this money. that money because we are now going to start our purchases as well as the printing of the ballot papers, and that is where the urgency lies.

At the same time, Garcia also asked Congress to help compensate for the efforts of teachers and other election officials following the president’s veto of a bill seeking a tax exemption on their fees.

Additional funds, he said, should be set aside in the general appropriations act to increase election-related compensation to offset the tax deduction on election officials’ fees.

Dangerous

The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) has voiced its opposition to calls for another postponement of Barangay and SK elections scheduled for December this year.

In a statement, the polls watchdog said postponing the election for the fourth time is already a “dangerous precedent”.

PPCRV said this “undermines” the important role and importance of the barangay in delivering basic services to the people.

“The postponement of the election also deprives citizens of the right and the critical need to replace leaders who have not optimally and adequately exercised the mandate entrusted to them by the voters,” he said. .

Young people, who represent more than half of the electoral population, are also marginalized by the postponement of the elections, according to them.

“The postponement of the SK elections stifles their right to participate as youth leaders and to vote for other youth leaders,” the PPCRV said.

Lawmakers have tabled bills to postpone the barangay and SK polls, citing a number of reasons – from using the polls budget for the pandemic response to giving the nation time to heal after the May 9 elections.

“But how can the deprivation of the democratic right to vote and choose leaders within the time limits prescribed and programmed by law become a means of healing?” the PPCRV added.

“The choice to fund the essential Covid program should not preclude a nation’s right to vote for or against its community leaders in accordance with the prescribed timetable,” he also said.

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