Senate panel submits committee report to postpone village, youth polls for one year

MANILA — The Senate Committee on Local Government, chaired by Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara on Tuesday submitted a committee report on a bill seeking a one-year postponement of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (village and youth council) elections.

Under Senate Bill No. (SBN) 1112, Angara said the elections will be postponed from Oct. 31 this year to Oct. 31, 2017.

Angara said that this allow more time for the full implementation of the recently enacted SK Reform Act or Republic Act (R.A.) 10742.

“We clearly hear the voices of those who are against the proposal. We understand the grievances of the youth who have not been able to vote for three years. But it is clear that the government is not ready to implement RA 10742,” Angara said in Filipino.

To recall, the SK Reform was signed into law in January, and its implementing rules and regulations (IRRs) were approved only in July. It mandates training of SK officials before they formally assume office.

Angara said that at present, there were no funds available yet for the mandatory training, which is worth Php 50 million.

He further said that villages were not prepared to conduct such training primarily because no training module has been created, tested or fine-tuned.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) earlier said that the polls should be moved to a later date to avoid “election fatigue” in the country following the May 2016 national elections.

Angara said the postponement will give the Comelec more time to assure higher voter turnout for the barangay and SK elections while giving would-be voters more time to consider who to vote for.

He said that it would also allow the continued momentum of the Duterte administration’s intensified anti-drug campaign.

“Let me emphasize that with this measure, we are not forsaking every person’s right to suffrage. We merely defer its exercise in the hopes of strengthening it and making it more meaningful,” Angara said.

According to the senator, the printing of ballots has been suspended but the Comelec said it would wait for a law or joint resolution from Congress to formally postpone the elections.

There were four proposals referred to the committee for the postponement of the two polls was previously filed in Senate by Senators Angara, Alan Peter Cayetano, Leila De Lima and Joel Villanueva.

Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III previously said he was in favor of postponing this year’s October 31 village and youth council elections for at least one year.

Pimentel said that the postponement would complement a similar move in the House of Representatives, led by Speaker Pantaleon Alavarez, to reset the scheduled elections for next year. Azer Parrocha/PNA/