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Bacolod City, Philippines Wednesday, August 31, 2016
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House, Senate move
to postpone elections
Draws mixed reactions from SK, brgy officials

Members of Congress are pushing for a one-year postponement of the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.

The Senate Committee on Local Government, chaired by Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, yesterday submitted a committee report on a bill seeking the one-year postponement.

Under Senate Bill No. 1112, Angara said the elections will be postponed from Oct. 31 this year to Oct. 31, 2017. This aims to allow more time for the full implementation of the SK Reform Act, or Republic Act 10742. The law was signed in January, and the implementing rules and regulations were approved only in July.

The House of Representatives yesterday afternoon also agreed to postpone the barangay and SK elections to the fourth Monday of October 2017.

This was the consensus during an all-member House caucus, led by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas.

Incumbent barangay officials in Negros Occidental welcome the possible postponement of the barangay elections, but the youth sector is questioning the motive behind a likely delay in the SK polls.

The Commission on Elections on Friday suspended the printing of ballots for the 2016 Barangay and SK elections.

Genevieve Guevarra, head of the Comelec Printing Committee, said the suspension was made following a statement of President Rodrigo Duterte that he supports calls to postpone the October 31 polls.

Negros Occidental Election Supervisor Jessie Suarez yesterday said he is 99 percent sure the barangay and SK polls in October will be postponed.

But this will depend on whether Congress will have time to amend the law setting such polls in October, he said.

Meanwhile, the Comelec in Negros Occidental will go on with its preparations for the barangay and SK polls until an official order is made postponing the elections, he said.

Anabelle Bermudo, president of the Liga ng mga Barangay-Negros Occidental Chapter, said the postponement of the October polls will be favorable to incumbent barangay officials.

However, Bermudo said she is against the call to abolish the barangay kagawads, noting that they help barangay captains carry out projects in their areas.

The Kabataan Partylist yesterday questioned the motive behind the proposed postponement of the barangay and SK polls.

“We do not subscribe to the ‘election fatigue' reasoning being used by the proponents of the election postponement. Before Congress railroads this move, it should be made clear: who will benefit from this move?” Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago asked in a press statement.

Elago said that the Duterte administration may be using the postponement issue as a “carrot-and-stick” mechanism to clinch political support at the barangay level.

The legislator said that the debate on whether there will be “hold-over capacity” or if President Duterte will be allowed to appoint interim barangay officers show that the postponement is designed to be used as a political tool.

“The government may dangle the issue of election postponement to aspiring barangay officer candidates like a carrot-and-stick. If they cooperate and switch allegiance, they can have their terms extended. If not, they will be unceremoniously kicked out of office and replaced,” Elago said, noting that some legislators are proposing to add provisions in the local election postponement bill that will empower Duterte to appoint interim officials.

“The political motives behind the election postponement should be cleared out. Let us be clear: While we remain supportive of the government's programs for change, we cannot simply allow the tell-tale signs of aggressive political leveraging,” she said.

Elago also expressed disagreement with House Speaker Alvarez's pronouncement that not only should the SK elections be postponed, but it should be abolished.

“Instead of further limiting the youth's participation, we urge the honorable House Speaker and my colleagues in Congress to study how we can actually work to seriously address the manifold issues faced by the youth sector, including the high cost of education, contractualization, unemployment, and even drug abuse,” Elago said.*CPG



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