By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Calls to postpone the May 2020 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections have snowballed at the House of Representatives after more lawmakers filed bills seeking to reset such polls.
Samar Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento, and Camarines Sur Rep. Jocelyn Fortuno separately filed their measures seeking to reschedule the May 11, 2020 elections.
Sarmiento’s House Bill 2888 seeks to reset the May 11, 2020 barangay and SK polls to the second Monday of May 2022. While, Fortuno, under her House Bill 2874, sought the resetting of the May 2020 polls to the last Monday of October 2022.
“It (postponement) will provide sitting barangay and SK officials the reasonably necessary time to fully implement their policies and programs. The postponement will allow non-disruption of their administration and work to the benefit of the people,” Sarmiento said.
“Furthermore, scheduling this election [to the] same time as the national and local elections will be more financially efficient and save Comelec and the country millions of pesos,” he added.
Fortuno agreed with Sarmiento that the postponement of such political exercise will “generate savings of more than P6 billion according to the cost estimate presented by the Comelec which became the basis when Congress earmarked the same amount when it passed Republic Act 10952.”
RA 10952 rescheduled the October 2017 barangay and SK polls to May 2018. It sets the conduct of the next barangay and SK elections in May next year.
“The resetting of the barangay and SK polls will not only allow the Filipino electorates to take a little longer pause before immersing themselves again into another political battle that will certainly disturb the peaceful condition at the local level,” Fortuno said.
She said her measure was in response to President Duterte’s call to postpone the barangay and SK polls during his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 22.
“Our experience in so many past elections has shown time and again that barangay election cannot be totally insulated from undue influence of partisan politics. Thus, it has caused divisiveness and has its share of some deplorable practices that trigger instances of violence among political leaders and supporters,” she added.
Under Fortuno’s HB 2874, synchronized barangay and SK elections shall be held on the last Monday of October 2022 and every three years thereafter.
The term of office of the barangay and SK officials elected in the May 2020 elections, and subsequently after , shall commence at noon of November 30 next following their election, it provides.
Sarmiento observed that the barangay and SK elections, as well as the May 2019 national and local polls, were faced with several issues, including numerous incidents of vote buying and intimidation of voters.
“Calbayog City itself was shaken by the beheading of a candidate’s husband days before the Election Day,” he laments.
“Resetting the elections to May 2022 will allow Comelec and other concerned agencies and offices to investigate and address these security risks and issues. The ample time will help the country employ measures to eradicate and prevent massive vote-buying, intimidation, and violence,” Sarmiento said.
He admitted that being a political process, the barangay and SK polls are not insulated from influences of partisanship.
“The Congress, therefore, must enact safeguards to ensure that the barangay and SK elections would be for the benefit of the community,” Sarmiento said.
Under HB 2888, subsequent synchronized barangay elections shall be held on the second Monday of May 2025, and every three years thereafter.
The term of office of barangay and SK officials in the May 2025 elections and subsequently thereafter, shall commence at noon of June 30 next following their election, Sarmiento’s bill provides.
It tasks the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to promulgate the implementing rules and regulations of the proposed Act within 90 days after its effectivity.
Isabela Rep. Faustino Dy V and Deputy Speaker and Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel earlier filed similar measures.