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House panel votes to postpone barangay, SK polls to December 2023

The House Suffrage and Electoral Reforms committee has voted to postpone the December 5, 2022 barangay and youth council elections to December 4, 2023.

At least 12 members voted in favor of the measure even after the Commission on Elections (Comelec) informed the panel that postponing the December 2022 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections for at least year will entail an additional cost of P5 billion.

Only France Castro of Alliance of Concerned Teachers party-list and Raoul Manuel of Kabataan party-list voted against the postponement, saying this will rob the voters of their right to choose their public officials.

The House panel likewise carried the motion setting the tenure of those who will be elected in December 2023 and thereafter for three years.

Those elected during the December 2023 polls will start their term noontime of January 1, 2024.

More expensive

Comelec chief George Garcia earlier told the House Suffrage and Electoral Reforms panel that such postponement means additional cost for the government since moving the barangay and youth council polls to a later date mandates the poll body to reopen registration for new voters.

"If we postpone it to March or December 2023, we will have to continue registration of new voters. This will mean additional voters, additional ballots [to be printed], additional teachers [to serve as poll workers], additional precincts, additional election paraphernalia [to buy]," Garcia said.

"It will entail additional cost. If we factor the increase in honoraria expense for our teachers, it would be an additional P5 billion," Garcia added.

Last May however, Garcia said postponing the 2022 barangay and youth polls would result in "malaking katipiran" or huge savings for the government. 

Representative Franz Pumaren of Quezon City, upon learning the additional cost, said lawmakers should not justify postponing the barangay and youth council polls by arguing that it would mean savings for the government.

"Basically, hindi tayo makakatipid (we will not be able to save money). We would be incurring an additional P5 billion. We should not say that our intention here ay para makatipid kasi mali pala (is to save because it is incorrect)," Pumaren said.

Garcia said there are around 24 million new registered voters for the December 2022 barangay and youth council elections, and that postponing it would enable the poll body to move closer to its target of having 29 million new registrants.

He, however, said that the P8.4 billion budget for the conduct of barangay and youth council elections for December this year is enough, unless the honoraria for teachers will be increased since this would mean additional budget requirement of P3 billion.

"We are ready, willing and prepared to conduct elections. Just give us the proper direction," Garcia said.


Meanwhile, Senator Jinggoy Estrada has filed a bill last month seeking to move the next barangay and SK elections from December 5, 2022 to the first Monday of December 2023. 

Under the proposed measure, barangay and SK officials who will be elected in December 2023 will assume office at noon of January 1, 2024.

Aside from Estrada, Senator Francis "Chiz" Escudero also filed a measure seeking to postpone the 2022 barangay and SK polls.

On Tuesday last week, Estrada urged the Senate leadership to direct the immediate conduct of hearings on bills seeking to postpone the 2022 barangay and SK elections in December. —RSJ/KG, GMA News