Senators want barangay, SK polls synchronized with 2013 elections
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri said the barangay and SK polls should be synchronized with the 2013 elections instead of being conducted on October 25.
"I am for the synchronization dahil masyadong magastos ‘yang (because it is too costly to hold) frequent elections. We’ll economize much and maybe what we can save can be earmarked for education and health," Enrile told reporters after the Senate consultative meeting on the postponement of the October polls on Monday.
With the proposed postponement and synchronization, Enrile said he hopes to save a lot of the government's money. "We will save on paper, freight, logistical support and manpower," he said.
The Comelec has allotted at least P3.4 billion for the conduct of the barangay and SK elections in October and about P15 to P20 billion for the local and national elections in May 2013.
President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III had earlier said he wants the barangay and SK polls to push through in October because he wants to synchronize the elections in 2013.
Zubiri, however, said that they need to meet with Aquino to discuss the "impracticality" of still conducting the October elections if they plan to synchronize the polls three years later.
"We need to convince the President and the people that it is timely... if we postpone it (the barangay and SK polls), we save P3.4 billion," Zubiri said during the Senate committee meeting.
Zubiri had earlier filed Senate Bill No. 60 which seeks to move the October 2010 elections to October 2012. He likewise wants to extend the terms of barangay officials to five years to supposedly address the issue of effective governance and implementation of long-term projects nationwide.
After the hearing, however, he said he plans to ask Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., head of the Senate committee on local governance, to amend his proposal and make it so that it pushes for the synchronization in 2013.
Marcos, who also filed a bill seeking to postpone the October polls for at least a year, said that at least 11 similar bills are also pending at the House of Representatives.
Marcos said the Senate committee on local government has yet to decide on how long they should postpone the conduct of the barangay and SK elections.
"It's not my intention to push for one year (postponement). I put that (time frame) just to open the debate. If there's a postponement, I'm not pushing for a particular period," he said during a briefing after the committee meeting.
On the other hand, Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Jose Melo said the poll body is neutral on the issue. "That will be left to Congress. Policy statement yan, that is a policy decision," he said in an ambush interview.
Melo noted, however, that the Senate may be "courting a presidential veto" because Aquino had already made a pronouncement that he wants to push through with the October elections.
On the other hand, Liga ng mga Barangay president and Councilor Ricojudge Janvier (RJ) Echiverri said the option to synchronize the elections was "more viable."
But he also asked the government for a little more "consistency" in its decisions. "What is our assurance after (Aquino's) term ends (that the next president won't) return it (our term) to five years again. Let us be consistent," he said.
The term of barangay and SK officials typically run for three years.
Melo said the Comelec is prepared to conduct the polls if Congress fails to amend the law and postpone the elections. "We are going (through) with the preparations," he said.
Marcos said the Senate still has at least three weeks to settle the matter.
Meanwhile, SK National Federation president Jane Censoria Cajes appealed to the Senate to not abolish the SK amid proposals asking for it.
"Kami ay nalulungkot at nasasktan na ang gobyerno ay gusto tanggalin ang boses ng kabataan (We are saddened and hurt by the fact that the government wants to remove the voice of the youth)," she said during the committee meeting.
Cajes said that plans to abolish the SK should not be based on "personal opinions" but on "studies and empirical data." She likewise said that Congress should instead call for the SK's reform and not its abolition.
Earlier, Aquino said he wants the SK — which is composed of one chairman and seven councilors — to be restructured to have just one representative.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo has drafted a bill calling for such setup.
Marcos and Zubiri, however, assured Cajes that they are not even considering scrapping the SK system.
"It is not my view that the youth representation should be abolished," said Marcos, noting that what he wants done is a restructure of the SK system. "They all want to work... they all want to help," he added. — GMANews.TV