Comelec urges lawmakers against holding barangay, SK elections with national polls

MANILA, Philippines – As Congress discusses the proposed postponement of the May 2020 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections (BSKE), the Commission on Elections (Comelec) urged lawmakers to refrain from scheduling it to coincide with a national election year.

Comelec Commissioner Antonio Kho Jr on Tuesday, September 24, told lawmakers in the House of Representatives that the poll body's one request would be "that it should be at least one year before national elections, which is May 2021, or one year after, which is May 2023."

Other proposals at the Lower House seek to postpone the 2020 BSKE to October 2022. The next national and local elections (NLE) are scheduled to take place in May of the same year. (READ: Senate panels approve postponement of barangay, SK elections to May 2023)

"If the election will be done by October, and the national election will be done by May, the personnel of Comelec will be divided in preparing for the NLE as well as the BSKE," Kho said. 

He added that the preparation of election paraphernalia, including the of printing of ballots, also takes several months to complete for a single election.

Holding local elections too close to national elections, Kho said, may also lead to a failure of elections in several areas.

Comelec already spending: The Comelec commissioner likewise urged lawmakers to immediately act on bills to postpone elections, if that is the intent of the legislature. Without a law postponing the polls, the poll body continues to spend for the preparations for the 2020 BSKE.

According to Kho, failure for a law postponing the 2020 BSKE to take effect immediately would see the Comelec spending on election paraphernalia and equipment before the end of the year.

"To avoid expenditures on the part of government and Comelec, we wold like to request if Congress, if indeed there would be postponement, to act immediately on the bills pending right now," Kho said.

"We also recognize the postponement is a policy decision and Comelec will submit to whatever command congress will decide on this matter.... We will be ready," he added.

Comelec has since "slowed down" its preparations for the May 2020 BSKE following the President's call for Congress to postpone the polls.

Kho told lawmakers that, in the event the 2020 BSKE would be postponed, succeeding local elections should be held "consistently." This, he said, would be to avoid similar conflict in schedules and to keep local elections sychronized with national elections, as the BSKE is done manually while national elections are automated.

Prior to this, barangay and SK elections had been postponed twice under the Duterte administration. The polls were first postponed from October 2016 to October 2017, then pushed back once more to May 2018 after Duterte signed Republic Act No. 10952(READ: TIMELINE: Efforts to postpone barangay, SK elections)  Rappler.com 

 

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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