NO TO POLLS DEFERMENT. Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman opposes the proposed deferment of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections set on Dec. 5 this year. He said on Tuesday (Sept. 20, 2022) such a move is unconstitutional. (File photo courtesy of PTV)

LEGAZPI CITY – Albay First District Rep. Edcel Lagman is not in favor of postponing the Dec. 5, 2022 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections (BSKE).

In a statement on Tuesday, Lagman said he cast a negative vote on the deferment, believing that elections are the bedrock of democratic governments and democracy at the grassroots must be assured by holding regular elections.

"The reason invariably invoked by the authors of the postponement that the savings of PHP7 to PHP8 billion, if the elections are postponed, can be realigned to finance the pandemic response and the stimulus package for economic recovery is not legally feasible and is utterly unconstitutional because the Commission on Elections (Comelec) enjoys fiscal autonomy, which does not allow any appropriations released to the Comelec to be countermanded by the Executive Branch and utilized for other purposes. The remaining unused funds will constitute a continuing appropriation under the sole jurisdiction of the Comelec," Lagman said.

He said the Comelec is not suffering from electoral fatigue.

"It has repeatedly stressed that it is ready to conduct the December 2022 village and youth elections," he added.

Earlier, Comelec Chairman George Garcia said the postponement of the BSKE to December 2023 will be costly because it would entail the need for another PHP18.3 billion constituting the PHP7.5 billion savings as continuing appropriation and an additional budget of PHP10.8 billion.

Lagman said the overstaying village officials need relief and those ineffective must be replaced while the overaged youth officials who have long exceeded the age limit must give way to young blood.

"The mandate of the Constitution for Congress to fix the term of office of barangay officials is not continuing in perpetuity. This mandate had already been discharged by Congress when it enacted the synchronization of barangay and SK elections under Republic Act 9164 or an Act providing for synchronized barangay and SK Elections. The term of office of barangay officials has been fixed by law for three years and for them to serve for not more than three consecutive terms," he said.

The lawmaker said repeatedly postponing the BSKE effectively extends the term and tenure of the village and youth officials as if the constitutional mandate for Congress to fix the term of office of barangay officials is continuing, which it is not. (PNA)