De Lima files bill to create Comelec field offices

MANILA, Philippines – Detained Senator Leila de Lima, chairman of the Senate committee on electoral reforms, filed a bill removing election offices from inside local government halls, and giving them their own.

“In a possible scenario where a conflict between the Comelec and the local government unit arises, the operations of the regional offices could suffer from any direct action by the LGU that owns the facilities where the regional offices operate,” De Lima said in a statement on Saturday, January 27.

Senate Bill 1666 seeks to repeal Section 55 of the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines, which requires the local government unit to “provide a suitable place for the office of the provincial election supervisor and his staff and the election registrar and his staff.”

De Lima said that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) should have its own office to maintain its independence.

“For instance, the LGU could restrict access to the offices, withhold any maintenance work, or interrupt utility services,” said the senator, a former election lawyer.

In cases of electoral protests, too, ballot boxes are in the custody of municipal treasurers. 

Under De Lima’s bill, the Comelec will have own its field offices. It provides a blueprint for transferring Comelec’s records and data from the LGU to its own facilities within only 6 months.

De Lima envisions that, within 5 years, the Comelec shall have moved out all their units from LGUs and into their own field offices.

De Lima proposed that the budget for the plan be included in Comelec’s budget inside the next and succeeding General Appropriations Acts.

De Lima filed the bill a year ahead of the 2019 mid-term elections. – Lian Buan/Rappler.com