Senator Alan Peter Cayetano is pushing for the postponement of the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) polls originally scheduled in October 2016, saying that resetting the elections would be more prudent in sustaining government efforts to create real change and restore order in the country.
Cayetano on Wednesday (August 17) filed Senate Bill No. 1037, which seeks to reset the upcoming synchronized Barangay and SK polls from October 31, 2016 to the last Monday of October 2018. It also seeks to extend the term of barangay and SK officials from three years to five years.
The senator cited five key reasons for the need to reset the elections: 1) to sustain the momentum of their programs aligned with the administration's anti-drug campaign; 2) to enable barangay officials to fully support the war vs. crime and drugs; 3) to give the legislature ample time to improve the Local Government Code’s provisions on effective barangay governance; 4) to save government money, especially if a plebiscite for Federalism will also be held soon; and 5) to give the Comelec sufficient time to prepare.
'Sustain the momentum of the war on drugs'
Stressing the importance of grassroots support in the government's fight for real change, Cayetano said moving the elections to a later date would allow barangay officials to focus on their role in helping sustain the momentum of the war against crime and illegal drugs that started during President Rodrigo Duterte's term.
He cautioned that rushing through the polls could undermine the government’s crackdown on illegal drugs, especially if barangay officials will claim political motivations whenever accused of illicit drug-related activities. He added that standard prohibited activities during elections and election bans could hamper reforms being undertaken by the new administration.
Cayetano said Duterte’s strong policy against illegal drugs has done so much to pull down the country’s crime rate that it is more prudent to allow incumbent barangay officials to continue implementing projects or re-align them in accordance to the thrust of the new government.
President Duterte himself repeatedly stressed the need to start the anti-drug campaign in the barangays, the smallest unit in government. Recent news reports also cited observations that the President's aggressive fight against illegal drugs resulted to a positive impact among local officials, with more officials now taking the initiative to inform law enforcers about drug activities in their barangays.
On the other hand, Cayetano clarified that barangay officials who are protectors of drug lords will continue to be purged. "If these officials will not cooperate in the campaign for real change, or if they are proven to give protection to drug suspects, they will have to face consequences under the law," he declared.
'Strengthen our barangays, save gov't money'
Cayetano further explained that the postponement of the elections will give Congress sufficient time to study reforms that will strengthen governance in the 42,036 barangays around the country.
"Postponing elections to take a closer look at how the Local Government Code can be amended in order to strengthen provisions concerning barangays with regard to term limits, benefits, training and funding, among others, would certainly be a wise move," he stressed, citing the similar case of the SK elections' postponement, which paved a way for the passage of an important legislation on SK reform.
"Barangays are given so much responsibility, yet they perennially suffer from lack of funds, authority and personnel training, among others. The need to strengthen the Barangay as an instrument of genuine and meaningful reform is therefore glaring," his bill read.
Additionally, resetting the date of the elections would save the country billions of pesos that can instead be used for social services, Cayetano stressed. To save both time and resources, the senator proposed that the Barangay and SK polls could be held simultaneously with a possible plebiscite in preparation for the government's shift to Federalism in 2018 or 2019.
Lastly, Cayetano said it is too soon to conduct another elections this year, as it had barely been three months since the country concluded a national election. "The conduct of the elections is too soon for the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and the Filipino electorate to prepare for,” he said. #