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Avoid these uncertainties on barangay, SK polls

DELAY in deciding whether or not the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections this October will be cancelled yet again is giving rise to all sorts of problems.

In the absence of any decision, the Commission on Elections has to maintain its preparations for the scheduled elections, including the printing of ballots. It started printing the ballots for Batanes last August 9 but after 15,021 ballots, it stopped the printing due to some confusion, officials said, on the number of ballots for some precincts.

The printing will resume as soon as the problem is cleared up. That will be 56,468,566 ballots for the barangay elections and 20,792,520 ballots for the SK elections. That is a total of 77,261,086 ballots for the entire country.

Among Comelec officials, the printing problem has led to another dispute related to the impending impeachment of its chairman, Andres Bautista. At the Comelec meeting last Tuesday, Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said she learned that the printing could not proceed because the chairman had not signed the required memorandum of agreement with the National Printing Office. She said he should resign or file for a leave of absence, so as not to affect the work of the Comelec. The chairman, in turn, said he could not sign anything as the board still had not approved the printing costs.

These two issues – the printing problem and the infighting in the Comelec – have cropped up at this time of great uncertainty in the Comelec. If Congress ultimately decides for postponement, all the ballots that have been printed – at great cost to taxpayers – would be wasted. If, on the other hand, Congress should decide against postponement, the Comelec may not have all the needed ballots ready.

The House of Representatives has already approved a bill postponing the elections seven months to May, 2018, but without President Duterte’s proposal that interim barangay leaders be appointed. In the Senate, a committee is for postponement for 12 months to October, 2018. On allegations that many barangay officials won with drug money and are likely to win again, the answer is to charge them in court, Sen. Richard Gordon said.

Senate and House leaders said they will hold a bicameral debate to settle all issues on the postponement bill. We urge that the debate be held soon and that the decision be quickly enacted into law. They should avoid what happened last year when the bill postponing the October, 2016, elections was signed into law only two weeks before election day.