The Commission on Elections' (Comelec's) proposed 2023 budget did not include the extra funding that would be needed if the December 2022 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections were postponed to next year, Comelec chairman George Garcia said Friday.
Garcia made the confirmation amid the questioning of Albay Representative Edcel Lagman during Comelec's presentation of its proposed P5.2 billion budget in 2023.
"We need P10 billion [if we will conduct the barangay and SK polls] in May ," said Garcia, who added that they would need P17 billion if the elections were postponed to December 2023.
"Mr. Chairman, if there is no budget for the Comelec for the conduct of the elections, then there is no budget for the Comelec to spend," Garcia added.
Lagman said that this insufficient budget for the conduct of a democratic exercise was unwelcome news.
"If there is no fixed amount for the [conduct] of barangay and SK elections in the 2023 budget, then the barangay and SK election will be in peril," Lagman said.
Last August, the House Suffrage and Electoral Reforms Committee voted to postpone the barangay and youth council elections to December 4, 2023.
Senator Jinggoy Estrada also filed a bill seeking to move the elections to the first Monday of December 2023.
At the time, Garcia testified that such a postponement meant additional costs for the government since moving the barangay and youth council polls to a later date meant the poll body would reopen registration for new voters.
Meanwhile, Lagman said that it would be better for Congress to fund Comelec's longtime request for its own building which would cost P9.3 billion - less than the funding requirement for the conduct of barangay and SK polls in 2023.
"The construction of a Comelec building has been a long dream of the Comelec. Because of the long delay due to lack of appropriations, most probably, that dream is becoming a nightmare," Lagman said.
"I understand from the [Comelec's] presentation that the building costs P9.3 billion. That would be less than the additional expense we are going to incur if we postpone the December 2022 elections," said the Albay Representative.
"So there is good reason to push through with the December 2022 elections and [instead] appropriate P9.3 billion for the construction of the Comelec building," Lagman added. — DVM, GMA News