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Restudy barangay and kabataan elections

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) disclosed that as of September 29, around P840 million had already been spent by Comelec for the barangay and kabataan elections scheduled October next year.

The expense had been mounting every day, for the Comelec had to maintain its preparations in accordance with long-prepared schedules. Printing of ballots had to continue along with the designation and training of precinct workers. Even if there was a strong move to postpone the elections, the Comelec could not presume anything. It had to follow the law and the law said the election would be on October 23, 2017.

The bill postponing the election to May 14, 2018, was finally signed into law on October 1, 2017. And it was only on that date that the spending for the elections could stop at P840 million. It had taken two months for Congress to enact the bill.

The P840 million is money that could have been spent for other needs of the government – like housing for millions of homeless Filipinos, arms and ammunition for our troops fighting rebels in the south, or food packets for victims of the typhoons regularly ravage our islands. But we must be glad that the spending has now stopped.

More than the money involved, the very concept of barangay and kabataan elections needs to be studied and decisions made. The elections have now been postponed twice. The first was the October, 2016, elections, because they were too close after the May, 2016, presidential elections and the public appeared to be suffering from “election fatigue.” The second postponement, of the October, 2017, elections, is for another reason – President Duterte’s fear that drug money may reelect many barangay officials.

The National Citizens Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) has been opposing postponement of the elections of barangay and kabataan officials. Elections are at the heart of democratic government, it said. They should be “competitive, fair, and with regularity.”

The system of barangay and kabataan officials and elections may need to be restudied. The elections have already been postponed twice – as if they can be easily set aside without much loss to the nation. Could these perhaps be held at the same time as the local elections for governors and mayors? What other changes need to be made?

We urge our officials to study this matter more closely and come up with election schedules that are not easily changed as befits their importance in our political system and our national life.