THE Senate on Wednesday approved on third and final reading a bill postponing the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections from October to May next year.
Senate Bill 1584 was approved with 17 votes, one negative vote by Senator Risa Hontiveros and zero abstention. The bill was authored by Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III and Senator Richard Gordon.
Barangay officials would be allowed to continue exercising their functions in a holdover capacity. The bill was approved without the provision that would allow the President to appoint barangay officials.
Gordon, sponsor of the bill, said the postponement of the barangay elections would give the police and military forces ample time to address the problem of drugs and to put an end to the Marawi siege. In his sponsorship speech, Gordon said the illegal drug trade has become so rampant that the Bureau of Customs was not spared from being used as the port of entry of illegal drugs. He said the incidents involving the killing of minors involved in drugs are signs of the magnitude of the drug problem in the country.
He said elective officials down to the barangay level are involved in illegal drugs and that 49 percent of the barangays are drug-infested – which is enough reason to postpone the barangay elections so the police and the military forces could clean the barangays of the drug menace.
Gordon added that he is giving opportunity to the military so they could assure the conduct of clean, orderly and honest barangay elections since majority of the country’s police and military forces are currently assigned in Mindanao to fight terrorist and extremist groups.
Comelec: No barangay, SK elections in October in Mindanao
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Wednesday said barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections in Mindanao are postponed while the Martial Law is still in effect.
But for Visayas and Luzon, the poll body is still waiting for the final decision of Congress.
Comelec XI Director Marlon Casquejo said the postponement was approved by Comelec in an en banc resolution on August 15 following a consultation with local officials last month.
According to Casquejo, all barangay and SK officials are in hold-over status.
The postponement was considered due to the imposition of martial law. President Rodrigo Duterte has first declared martial law in Mindanao last May 23 until July. The President extended the martial law until the end of December, 2017.
All parties have been notified and there was no opposition to delay the elections, which is scheduled in October, Casquejo said during Wednesday’s AFP-PNP Press forum at the Royal Mandaya Hotel.
The barangay and SK polls will happen only 30 days after martial law will be lifted.
Casquejo, however, stressed that Comelec is ready to hold elections if the martial law will be lifted anytime. If martial law ends on December 31, 2017, the elections can take place 30 days after.
He said Comelec continues to accept certificates of candidacy.
Comelec is also printing official ballots while the list of voters and the board of election inspectors are also ready.
Casquejo said there are already three million voters in Davao region. Of the number, 1.2 million voters are in Davao City that already includes SK voters.
For Visayas and Luzon, Casquejo said there are conflicting provisions in the bills passed in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
He cited that the House agreed to the postponement of the barangay and SK elections to May 2018 while the Senate moved for October elections. Another provision is on the status of the barangay officials.
Casquejo said the House moved for hold-over status while the Senate wants to replace the barangay captains in the list of narco politicians. The Senate also gives President Duterte the authority to replace them.
Should the House and Senate still fail to agree on conflicting provisions, Casquejo said Comelec is ready for the October elections in Luzon and Visayas.
Last week, the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading House Bill 6308 which seeks to postpone the October 23, 2017, barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections to the second Monday of May 2018.
To reset the synchronized barangay and SK polls, the bill seeks to amend Republic Act No. 9164, as amended by RA No. 9340, RA No. 10656 and RA No. 10923, which are all related to barangay and SK elections.
The bill provides that all incumbent barangay and SK officials shall continue to hold office until the next election is held.
The postponement of the barangay and SK elections this year is in support of President Duterte’s call to reset the polls because he does not want those financed by druglords to win. (Lilian C. Mellejor/PNA)
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