Prolonging the agony

Village execs urge Senate to postpone barangay, SK polls

SOLANO, Nueva Vizcaya — The national assembly of the federation of barangay (village) chairpersons in the country has urged the Senate to support a proposal to postpone elections for barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK or youth council) officials scheduled next month.

In a September 20 resolution, the Liga ng mga Barangay (League of Villages) said “supervening circumstances” have made the conduct of the elections in October impractical.

The Liga cited the lack of time to prepare for the elections.

The problem, it said, is complicated by “unresolved issues” that include proposals to automate the polls, its proximity to the recently held national and local elections, budget constraints, and representation problems confronting the SK.

Republic Act 9340, passed on May 25, 2005, mandates the holding of synchronized barangay and SK elections “on the last Monday of October 2007 and every three years thereafter.”

RA 8436 authorizes the conduct of a modernized system of elections through automation, the Liga said.

The eight-member Liga council, led by its president, James Marty Lim, has sought the help of Senator Richard Gordon to file a bill calling for the examination of the “[im]practicality” of proceeding with the October 2007 elections.

To rectify the “incongruity” of past election controversies like reports of “dagdag-bawas” (vote-padding and -shaving) and the “Hello, Garci” scandal, “the perceived key is automation,” the council said.

The “Hello, Garci” scandal refers to purported wiretaps of phone conversations between President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo‘s and former elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano at the height of the 2004 presidential election canvass that allegedly touch on plans to rig the results of the vote.

The Liga said the synchronized barangay and SK elections would be the best dry run for automated elections in 2010.

“Since automation of the [Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao] elections had provided nothing more than lackluster results, the true test now to gauge and validate the importance of computerizing the elections should be at the level of the barangay,” the resolution said.

But since the scheduled barangay and SK elections are just more than a month away, the Liga council said the planned automation may have to be shelved again if the polls are not reset to a later date, such as May next year.

The council said the request of the Commission on Elections for barangay councils to allocate counterpart funding for the elections casts doubt on the poll body’s claim that it had enough funds to push through with the October schedule.

“A considerable part of the funds [for the synchronized] elections would reportedly be [taken] from the individual funds of the barangays at a fixed amount, without regard to their income level. This would greatly prejudice poor barangays,” the resolution said.

Problems plaguing the SK, including calls for its abolition due to the supposed “non-performance and inefficiency” of its officers, further reinforce the need for a review of the practicality of the simultaneous holding of the barangay and SK elections, according to the Liga.

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