House panel starts hearing on proposed postponement of barangay, SK elections

August 19, 2010 10:53 am 

By Lilybeth G. Ison

MANILA, Aug. 18 — The committee on suffrage and electoral reforms of the House of Representatives began Wednesday hearing pending measures calling for the postponement of barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections this year.

Members of the Liga ng mga Barangay and the League of Cities of the Philippines who attended the first hearing of the committee, expressed support for the postponement of barangay and SK elections, which is scheduled on October 25, this year, saying that another political exercise will not heal the political wounds created by the May presidential election.

Rico Echiverri, president of the Liga ng mga Barangay, said that funds appropriated for the barangay elections should be used instead for government priority programs to address the power generation woes in Mindanao, water shortage in Luzon, and modernization of the country's weather forecasting system.

He noted that postponing the elections for a year will give the Commission on Elections (Comelec) time to automate the barangay elections, as mandated by Republic Act 9369 or the automation law.

For his part, Sherwin Gatchalian, president of the League of Cities of the Philippines, said local officials all over the country are for the postponement of the barangay and SK elections for one year.

Jane Cajes, SK national president, also said her group backs the postponement of elections, but appealed to the lawmakers not to abolish it.

Cajes instead proposed reform in the Sangguniang Kabataan.

Around 21 measures were filed at the Lower Chamber calling for the postponement of barangay and SK elections either in 2011, 2012 or 2013. Members of the committee have agreed to consolidate these into one version.

During the hearing, Camiguin Rep. Pedro Romualdo said there is now a need to "heal the wounds (from last May election), to save money," and remove the animosity in the political environment.

On the other hand, House Minority Leader and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said the House should come up with its own position on the matter.

Malacanang had said it wants to push through with the barangay elections in October this year and at the same time, called for the abolition of the SK.

"Whether the President (Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" Aquino III) is in favor or not should not dissuade this committee from proceeding with the process of legislation," Lagman told the committee.

Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte noted three out of four members of the House of Representatives favor the postponement of the barangay elections, according to initial results of an informal survey.

He said he has been distributing survey forms among his colleagues in the last three days "to elicit their sentiments, views, and opinions of House members" on the postponement of the polls.

Based on initial results, Villafuerte said 74.7 percent of those who responded are for the postponement of the barangay elections.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez appealed to the President to listen to the sentiments of the lawmakers and the local executives on the issue of barangay elections.

Meanwhile, Comelec chairman Jose Melo, who attended the hearing, said that while the poll body is ready for the barangay elections this year, postponing it for 2011 would be "ideal."

"At least we should be given a level of comfort that this will be postponed. We would be comfortable if there is a law by the first week of September," he said.

Melo, however, raised the danger that the proposed measure might be vetoed by the President, citing Malacanang’s position to push through with the barangay elections in October this year, and, at the same time, abolish the Sangguniang Kabataan.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has guaranteed that the P3.4 billion allocation for the holding of barangay elections will be made available, if needed. (PNA)

DCT/LGI

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