MANILA – The House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms on Tuesday approved a proposal to postpone the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections (BSKE) scheduled on Dec. 5, 2022 to Dec. 4, 2023.

A total of 12 members of the House panel voted in favor of the measure to postpone this year's electoral exercise as it would help the government save a lot of money that can be diverted to financial aid for the poor and other more urgent government programs.

Only two lawmakers voted against the proposal.

The committee also approved the motion to set the tenure of those elected for the December 2023 polls and other elections thereafter for three years.

During the hearing, Commission on Elections (Comelec) chief George Garcia said the postponement of the polls would entail an additional cost of PHP5 billion as it would require more poll workers, precincts, and election paraphernalia because of newly registered voters.

"If we postpone it to March or December 2023, we will have to continue registration of new voters. This will mean additional voters, additional ballots, additional teachers [as poll workers], additional precincts, additional election paraphernalia," Garcia said.

The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) does not support pushing back again the BSKE.

The BSKE and Covid-19 response are both key priorities with their respective budget allocations and the importance of one should not be made the reason for diminishing and deprioritizing the other. The choice to fund the essential Covid programs should not preclude a nation’s right to cast a vote for or against their community leaders in accordance with the mandated schedule,” the Church-based election watchdog group said in a statement.

The PPCRV said postponement deprives the citizens not only of the right to vote for community leaders but also of the critical need to replace those who do not adequately exercise their mandates.

The law mandates that synchronized Barangay and SK elections be held every three years on the first Monday of December.

The last barangay and SK elections were held on May 14, 2018.

Appeal

Meanwhile, the Comelec said postponing the polls to just next year is the best option, saying 2024 is too close to the next midterm elections.

“We at the Comelec, we will just abide by the mandate of Congress and the Executive as far as postponing the election is concerned, whether it be May of 2023, December of 2023, and not in 2024 because by that time, we will be preparing for the 2025 elections,” Garcia said in a statement.

He also asked lawmakers to act swiftly in crafting a law on the BSKE's postponement.

Garcia said a new law would give the Comelec an accurate direction as to the next steps it would take, which would include the continuation of the voter's registration or halting the ongoing preparations for the polls which are set for Dec. 5 this year.

"We were given PHP8.449 billion as the budget for the Barangay and SK elections. As of today, we have spent only PHP800,000 of that money. But, in the next few days, weeks or months, we will be spending that money because we will now start with our procurement as well as the printing of the ballots. And that's where the urgency lies,” he added.

At least three measures calling for the postponement of the December 2022 BSKE have been filed in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

In the bills, the BSKE is proposed to be rescheduled to either May 2023, December 2023, or May 2024. (PNA)