Senate approves bill postponing village, youth council polls

MANILA — The Senate on Tuesday approved the bill postponing the barangay and Sangguiniang Kabataan (village and youth council) polls on third reading, with 20 affirmative and two negative votes.

Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto and Senator Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV both voted against the bill while the rest of the senators voted for it.

Recto said that while he is for village reforms, he was not for the measure, citing reasons, such as “tinkering with the expiry dates” of elective officials.

“By scrapping the polls, we are in effect telling people in the throes of their self-deliverance that ‘Change is postponed’,” Recto said.

“It is because of this principle — that only the people can directly extend the tenure of elective public officials — that I cannot agree to the proposal to postpone the barangay elections,” he added.

Recto pointed out that whether or not elections are held, projects are delayed anyway. He further explained that postponing elections does not save the government money but merely puts money aside.

Moreover, he argued that a postponement would rob village residents of the chance to kick out officials involved in the illegal drug trade.

Senate Bill No. (SBN) 1112 or the bill postponing village and youth council elections seeks to postpone the polls from Oct. 31 this year to October 31, 2017.

The Senate Committee on Local Government, led by Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, submitted a committee report on a bill seeking a one-year postponement of both elections last August 30.

The bill has so far incorporated two key reforms during plenary debates which are meant to ensure that important services of the government will not pause during the campaign period for village officials.

Recto, who proposed the two amendments, said that the implementation of village-funded projects, such as roads and bridges, will be suspended 10 days before the elections so as not to influence voters’ choices.

He said that another amendment is the lifting of the ban on the hiring or promotion of government employees.

At present, the Senate waits for a similar measure to be passed by the House of Representatives before the two chambers convene a bicameral committee to reconcile their versions.

The House measure is similar to that of the Senate except that the former has proposed a postponement of elections to Oct. 23, 2017 as opposed to the latter’s postponement to October 31, 2017. Azer Parrocha/PNA/