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Millions of ballots will just go to waste

THE House of Representatives approved on third and final reading last Monday a consolidated bill postponing the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections scheduled for October 23, 2017. The elections are proposed to be postponed to May 14, 2018.

The House measure includes a provision that the current barangay and kabataan officials remain in their positions until new officials are elected. President Duterte had earlier proposed that acting officials be appointed, but the Constitution includes barangay officials among the nation’s elected officials. It, however, allows elected officials to stay in holdover capacity.

The House bill now goes to the Senate which, we urge, should waste no time in approving a counterpart bill, so that there will be no further doubt about postponement – as was the case with the October 31, 2016, election. That was postponed to October 23, 2017, but the law postponing it was signed into law with only two weeks to go.

All the while, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) had to continue with its preparations, including training for all those manning the precincts, determining the precinct sites, readying all the needed equipment, and – most important of all – assuring the availability of ballots.

Because there will be no elections in Mindanao, which remains under martial law until the end of the year, only 60 million ballots need to be printed, instead of the usual 77 million. The Comelec has already printed 1.6 million ballots under contract with the National Printing Office. These are the ballots for Batanes, Biliran, Southern Leyte, Eastern Samar, Northern Samar, and Samar.

Every day that Congress puts off enacting the postponement law, the Comelec has to follow its printing schedule. It must proceed with all its preparations, in accordance with the prevailing law. It would be violating its mandate if it did otherwise.

For this reason, Congress must lose no time in enacting the needed law. The House already has done its part. The Senate must quickly enact its counterpart bill. Every day counts, for every day means millions of pesos spent on the printing of ballots that will just go to waste.

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