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Save all these millions of pesos

BY now, the nation is fairly certain that the Barangay and Kabataang Barangay (KB) elections scheduled for October 23, 2017, will be postponed, probably to May, 2018.

The House of Representatives approved the postponement measure, House bill 6308, on third and final reading last September 13. President Duterte certified the postponement measure as urgent and sent the official communication to the Senate. The Senate immediately responded and approved the bill on September 20.

But the printing of ballots for the elections continues. As explained by Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesman James Jimenez, the Comelec can only slow down the printing but it cannot stop. That will happen only when the President signs the bill into law.

For it is only then that we can say the elections for October 23, 2017, have been officially cancelled. Only then can the Comelec stop all its preparations, including determining of precinct sites, training of precinct workers – members of the Boards of Election Tellers and Barangay Boards of Canvassers – and, of course, the printing of ballots.

As of last September 20, the Comelec said it had already spent P39 million for the printing of 27,950,855 ballots, at R3 per ballot. It continues the printing, following a schedule, until the total of 57 million is reached; that’s about 19 million more ballots needed. Printing must go until stopped by law. At 800,000 ballots a day and at P3 per ballot, that’s R2.4 million a day.

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said that if the October elections are cancelled, the printed ballots will not be a total loss. The Comelec could approve a resolution later, allowing the use of the already printed ballots, with the printed date of October 23, 2017, covered with stickers or erased with correction fluid and then marked with the new date. In the meantime, however, the printed ballots will have to be stocked somewhere – at additional cost for renting the space and hiring people to stand guard over them.

All these costs that are mounting every single day could be avoided if the bill already passed by both houses of Congress could be immediately finalized in a bicameral conference committee and sent to President Duterte. The President, we are certain, is just waiting for the bill so he can sign it immediately.

If only for the millions of pesos that can be saved, Congress should waste no time completing its approval of the bill and President Duterte should similarly waste no time signing it.