By Charissa Luci-Atienza
MAGDALO partylist Rep. Manuel Cabochan III has cited the need to strengthen the independence of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) by mandating it to provide new suitable office spaces for its field offices.
He sought to repeal Section 55 of the Batasang Pambansa Blg. 881, otherwise known as the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines, as amended.
“Section 55 of the Omnibus Election Code seems to counteract the supposed independence of the Comelec. Section 55 makes it incumbent upon the local government to provide an office space for the provincial supervisor and the election registrar, including their staff in their respective localities,” Cabochan said.
“If it is not feasible, the Comelec shall take charge of making the same available and the corresponding rentals shall be paid by the local government unit (LGU) concerned, ” he added.
Cabochan filed House Bill No. 5745 or the proposed Comelec Independent Offices Act to protect Comelec and its field offices from any undue influence that can undermine its independence.
“If a conflict arises between the Comelec and the LGU, the operations of the regional offices could suffer from any direct action by the LGU which owns or pays for the space of the Comelec regional offices. Clearly, the provisions of BP 881 compromise the independence of Comelec, ” he said.
“As guardians of the ballot, there is a need to strengthen the independence of Comelec, ” he said.
HB 5745 delegates the responsibility of providing the needed office space for its field offices to the Comelec, without the need for prior approval of the concerned LGU, Cabochan said.
The bill tasks the Comelec to formulate a plan to transfer its field offices from the LGU-controlled facilities to Comelec-owned or -leased facilities within six months from the effectivity of the proposed Act.
The plan shall provide for a complete transfer of all Comelec field offices within five years from the effectivity of the proposed Act, it said.
The amount needed for the implementation of the proposed Act shall be included in the budget of Comelec in next succeeding General Appropriations Act following the adoption of the Transfer Plan by the Comelec en banc.