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Postpone elections? Decide immediately

WITH the national elections held less than four months ago – last May 9 – there is a growing consensus among the nation’s top officials that it may be best to postpone the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections scheduled for Oct. 31, less than two months away.

One reason is “fiscal prudence,” in the words of House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez. It would cost about R3.4 billion to hold the nationwide election, he said, and the new administration needs funding for so many projects. It might not push so hard for increased taxes – such as raising the VAT from the present 12 to 15 percent – if it could save the R3.4 billion.

Some quarters have opposed postponing the barangay elections on the ground that this would mean prolonging the terms of barangay officials elected in 2013, who would then serve for one or two more years without a new mandate from the people. There really should be no automatic extension of the terms of current officials. If the elections are postponed, it might better for interim barangay and KB chairmen to be appointed by President Duterte.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has openly declared he believes that actually, it is only the chairman, not the council members or kagawad, who work in a barangay. Similarly, he said, kabataan chairmen and council members do not really do any work, as they have to be in school. Anyway, he added, there is already a party-list organization representing the nation’s youth in Congress.

President Duterte himself is for postponing the two elections for two reasons. One is the expense. The other is that the new administration is in the middle of the process of appointing officials to various executive offices all over the country, and such appointments are banned during an election period.

For all these many reasons, it looks like the scheduled elections on October 31, 2016, will be postponed possibly to the last Monday of October, 2018. Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano has already filed a bill in the Senate to this effect, while several bills and resolutions have also been filed in the House. Speaker Alvarez said he is filing his own resolution, although he has yet to decide when it would be best to hold the reset elections.

Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista hopes it will be in 2017, as 2018 would be too close to the regular midterm elections in May, 2019.

The important thing is that the decision is made immediately for the benefit of all concerned – the prospective voters, the prospective candidates, the Comelec, the new administration, and the nation as a whole which would welcome a respite from the bitter – and sometimes violent – infighting in Philippine elections.