Congressmen files bill to postpone 2013 Barangay election

The call to reset the October 2013 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan polls is gaining ground as lawmakers file separate bills for its postponement to varying dates.

The latest to seek such postponement of the polls is Rep. Jerry Treñas (Lone District, Iloilo City) who filed HB 6005 resetting the elections to the last Monday of October 2015, which is five years after the last barangay polls.

Rep. Jerry Treñas (Lone District, Iloilo City)Treñas, Chairman of the House Committee on Good government and Public Accountability, took notice of a Supreme Court comment in the case of Occeña vs. Comelec that there are good reasons for insulating the Barangay from the divisive and debilitating effects of a partisan political campaign, as the barangay Captain and the Barangay Council also act as agencies for neutral community actions such as distribution of basic necessities, conducting plebiscites and settling local disputes.

Treñas said the High Tribunal was right when it noted that "it would definitely enhance the objective and impartial discharge of their duties for barangay officials to be shielded from political loyalty." 

Rep. Augusto Syjuco (2nd District, Iloilo) authored House Bill 5987, which seeks to reset the barangay and SK elections from October 29, 2013 to October 27, 2014. 

Rep. Augusto Syjuco (2nd District, Iloilo)Syjuco's bill also proposes that the term of office of all barangay and SK officials should be five years instead of the current three years.

Earlier, Rep. Ben Evardone (Lone District, Eastern Samar) filed House Bill 5794 that resets the barangay and SK polls to May 2014 and every four years thereafter. 

Likewise, Rep. Rachel Marguerite Del Mar (1st District, Cebu) filed House Bill 5750 resetting the Barangay and SK polls to the last Monday of October 2014 and every three years thereafter.

A separate measure, House Bill 5962, authored by Reps. Guillermo Romarate, Jr. (2nd Dist., Surigao del Norte), Francisco Matugas (1st District, Surigao del Norte), Philip Pichay (1st District, Surigao del Sur), Florencio Garay (2nd District, Surigao del Sur), Evelyn Mellana (2nd District, Agusan del Sur), Ma. Valentina Plaza (1st District, Agusan del Sur), Ma. Angelica Amante-Matba (2nd District, Agusan del Norte) and Jose S. Aquino II (1st District, Agusan del Norte), calls for the resetting of the October 2013 polls to the second Monday of May 2015.

Reps. Rufus Rodriguez (2nd District, Cagayan de Oro City) and Maximo Rodriguez Jr. (Partylist, Abante-Mindanao) also proposed the resetting of the said elections to the last Monday of October 2015.

"For a country whose budget deficit was estimated by the President to reach a record high of P349-billion by the end of the year, P3.6-billion (spent in 2010) is too high a price to spend on barangay elections," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez noted that elections in the Philippines are always a costly exercise, both for the candidate and the government. As scheduled, the next Barangay and SK elections shall be held five months after the 2013 senatorial and local elections.

"It could be a safe bet to state that the upcoming 2013 barangay elections could top the 2010 spent for the barangay polls, which amount could be better spent for other government projects like construction of bridges, roads and other infrastructure projects, and even school buildings," Rodriguez said.

"Elections, whether national, local or barangay, prove to be divisive among the populace specially coming from the heels of the very divisive May 10, 2010 polls," Rodriguez added.

Rodriguez surmised that the three year term of barangay officials is too short a time for the unity and stability in barangay leadership and affairs.

"Three years is not enough to ensure that the programs of the barangay are carried out properly considering the fact that it cannot be denied that the last year of the term is basically used for campaigning," Rodriguez said.

A two-year extension would therefore be in order to ensure stability in the barangay level so that the programs initiated by the current leaders would come to fruition, according to Rodriguez.