Comelec shouldn’t be distracted by telenovela in prepping for brgy polls

Presumptuous to piggyback it with BBL plebiscite

P.3 trillion IRA of brgy captains during holdover years

Comelec budget jumps 500% to P16B next year

The controversy pummelling embattled Commission on Elections chair Andres Bautista should not "derail nor distract" the Comelec rank-and-file in preparing for the barangay elections, whenever it may be, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto said today.

"Their attitude, I think, is that of all systems go," Recto said. "Until Congress pulls the plug yet again on the twice-postponed village polls, they should follow their timetable," he said.

While he is not yet ready to agree 100 percent with it, Recto said the Lower House's plan to immediately pass a bill resetting the October polls to May next year and allow incumbents to continue in a holdover capacity is better than the suggestion to appoint officers-in-charge.

"Hindi kaya ng Palasyo na mag-handpick ng 42,306 acting barangay chairmen, in such a very short time," Recto said. "At ang ganoong pagpili ay baka mabahiran ng kritisismo na whimsical at partisan."

Recto said that "at present, my position is to hold the elections in October as scheduled. Postponing it by seven months makes no great difference."

"Siguro in critical areas under Martial Law, a deferment is justified, but in other areas hindi," Recto said.

Deferring the elections anew, he added, "would mean that tens of millions of pesos spent in preparatory activities will again be wasted."

"Hindi ka makakatipid kung i-cancel mo. We can only save money if we are permanently cancelling the polls. But we are only postponing it. So instead of spending at least P7 billion this year, we will only delay spending it by seven months, so in the end, we will still have to spend that P7 billion," Recto said.

In this year's national budget, Congress deemed as "continuing appropriations" the unspent P1.1 billion earmarked in the 2015 national budget for the registration of voters and the holding of the Sangguniang Kabataan elections.

Also considered rolled over is the P6.5 billion fund in the 2016 national budget for the holding of the barangay council polls and the registration of qualified voters.

For 2018, the Comelec has a proposed budget of P 15.9 billion, "a big five times jump" from its 2017 adjusted allocation of P 3.1 billion," Recto said. "If we postpone the barangay polls, will the Comelec ask for a supplemental budget?" Recto said.

Recto said it would also be presumptuous to propose that the plebiscite to ratify the Bangsamoro Basic Law will piggy-back with barangay elections.

"Pasado na ba kaya by that time? What if Congress passes a law not to the liking of some important stakeholders? Paano kung ma-delay ng konti? Paano kung October next year ang pinakasafe na date? These are the factors to be considered," Recto explained.

Recto said barangay elections are urgent so that elected village leaders have a new mandate in spending the billions of pesos that barangays receive annually as mandatory share from national taxes collected.

Recto said barangays got as their Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) shares P84.42 billion in 2016 and P96.08 billion in 2017, and will get P103.225 billion next year.

"So lampas one-fourth trillion pesos, or P284.8 billion sa panahon na hindi na renewed ang mandate nila," Recto said.

Source: Senate of the Philippines

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