AUGUST 17, 2016 — Senator Alan Peter Cayetano is pushing for the postponement of the upcoming Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) polls in order to sustain government efforts to create real change and restore order in the country.
Cayetano filed Senate Bill No. 1037 today which seeks to reset the synchronized Barangay and SK polls from October 31, 2016 to the last Monday of October 2018.
The bill also seeks to extend the term of barangay and SK officials from three years to five years.
In a statement, Cayetano cited five key reasons for the need to reset the elections:
- to sustain the momentum of their programs aligned with the administration’s anti-drug campaign;
- to enable barangay officials to fully support the war vs. crime and drugs;
- to give the legislature ample time to improve the Local Government Code’s provisions on effective barangay governance;
- to save government money, especially if a plebiscite for Federalism will also be held soon; and
- to give the Comelec sufficient time to prepare.
‘Sustain the momentum of the war on drugs’
Cayetano said moving the elections to a later date would allow barangay officials to focus on their role in helping sustain the momentum of the war against crime and illegal drugs that started during President Rodrigo Duterte’s term.
He said rushing through the polls could undermine the government’s crackdown on illegal drugs, especially if barangay officials will claim political motivations whenever accused of illicit drug-related activities.
Cayetano also said standard prohibited activities during elections and election bans could hamper reforms being undertaken by the new administration.
He said Duterte’s strong policy against illegal drugs has done so much to pull down the country’s crime rate that it is “more prudent to allow incumbent barangay officials to continue implementing projects or re-align them in accordance to the thrust of the new government.”
He said Duterte himself repeatedly stressed the need to start the anti-drug campaign in the barangays, the smallest unit in government.
He added that recent news reports also cited observations that the President’s aggressive fight against illegal drugs had a positive impact among local officials, with more officials now taking the initiative to inform law enforcers about drug activities in their barangays.
Cayetano also clarified that barangay officials who are protectors of drug lords will continue to be purged. “If these officials will not cooperate in the campaign for real change, or if they are proven to give protection to drug suspects, they will have to face consequences under the law,” he said.
‘Strengthen our barangays, save gov’t money’
Cayetano said the postponement of the elections will give Congress sufficient time to study reforms that will strengthen governance in the 42,036 barangays around the country.
“Postponing elections to take a closer look at how the Local Government Code can be amended in order to strengthen provisions concerning barangays with regard to term limits, benefits, training and funding, among others, would certainly be a wise move,” he said.
He cited the similar case of the SK elections’ postponement, which he said paved the way for the passage of important legislation on SK reform.
“Barangays are given so much responsibility, yet they perennially suffer from lack of funds, authority and personnel training, among others. The need to strengthen the Barangay as an instrument of genuine and meaningful reform is therefore glaring,” Cayetano said in the bill.
He also said resetting the date of the elections would save the country billions of pesos that can instead be used for social services.
Cayetano proposed that the Barangay and SK polls be held simultaneously with a possible plebiscite in preparation for the government’s shift to Federalism in 2018 or 2019 to save both time and resources.
He said it is too soon to conduct another election this year as it had barely been three months since the country concluded a national election. “The conduct of the elections is too soon for the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Filipino electorate to prepare for,” he said.