SENATORS are now “contemplating” postponing the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) scheduled for December 5, 2022.
In a hybrid hearing conducted by Senator Imee Marcos, who chairs the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms, the lady senator said this postponement is not the “first time”, but rather it will be the third postponement if legislators will agree to have it move until 2023.
It was also raised during the hearing that the December schedule of elections usually encounters some challenges compared to the May elections, as provincial voters who are studying in Manila will need to go home to vote, which is not the case for the May schedule. The month of December also experiences rains which poses another problem.
“Ako mismo na-encounter ko ang ganyang problema noong ako ay gobernador pa sa Ilocos. Maraming kabataan ang hindi makauwi sa ganyan panahon dahil sa kanilang trabaho,” Marcos said as she cited some facts that most of the SK (Sangguniang Barangay) cannot cast their votes because of their school and work and transferring it to May instead of December, she said will be more helpful should Congress decide to move it.
Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman George M. Garcia and Commissioner Rey Bulay, present during the hybrid hearing, were one in saying that postponement of elections would not save money for the government as they confirmed that it would actually incur the added cost of at least P5 billion and more.
Earlier, Sen. Jose Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada proposed in his Senate bill 453 to postpone BSKE to December 5, 2023 from December 5, 2022.
Estrada, during the hearing, said the last elections had caused much divisiveness among the Filipino electorate, citing that this “political toxicity” in a close interval would not benefit the national well-being.
“The atmosphere is very polarized, plus the fact that our country is still in the midst of a pandemic brought about by COVID-19. Our country has not yet fully recovered from the havoc brought about by the pandemic,” Estrada said.
It was also revealed that the postponement of elections for 2023 will result in a doubling of the budget for the Comelec, which will amount to P18 billion already.
“Nakakasindak naman ang taas nito. Mula sa P8.5B magiging P18B?” Marcos questioned Comelec Chair Garcia.
During the hearing, Garcia explained that the increase comes from the increase in honoraria and other expenses for the poll workers, which will also be part of the budget. Postponement of the elections, according to Garcia, means there will be additional voters, which means additional precincts, ballot boxes, electoral board members, as well as additional honoraria, which add up to some P5 billion additional costs.
Aside from Estrada, Sen. Francis Escudero has likewise filed a measure to postpone the Barangay and SK elections.
“Instead of savings, we will be spending a lot more if we postpone [these elections] dahil mag-i-increase po lahat pati precincts, indelible ink, increase in the number of voters, increase in the number of materials that Comelec will use,” Garcia told the committee.
Sen. Ramon Bong Revilla, for his part, said this postponement is actually a big question for him, considering that so many of the former SK are now adults.
“Baka sa sobrang postponement natin yung mga dating kabataan natin magiging senior na. Dapat pag-isipan natin. We need to uphold the rights of our people to suffrage,” Revilla said during the hearing.
Garcia explained that Comelec has no other option but to explain to Congress to increase the honorarium and the continuing registration expenses.
Garcia said they aimed to register 29,088,496 voters for the barangay and SK polls but were only able to register 24,457,363. He said that if these elections are deferred anew, they expect the remaining 4,631,133 to be registered as voters. By Camille P. Balagtas and PS Jun M. Sarmiento