THE National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) on Wednesday called for Congress to allow the conduct of the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) on December 5 as scheduled under Republic Act No. 11462.
This came as some legislators have filed bills in both the Senate and the House of Representatives to put on hold anew the long-delayed polls originally set for May 2020.
“The will of the people, as expressed through the ballot, is the very essence of democracy. This should not be set aside again,” Namfrel said in a statement.
The poll watchdog said that while the legislature is allowed by the Constitution to determine the term of elective barangay officials via legislation, this does not mean that Congress should forego again the BSKE.
Namfrel noted that the law amends only the rescheduling of the BSKE to December 5, but does not repeal the requirement under R.A. 9164 that synchronized the holding of it in October every three years.
“The barangay serves as the primary planning and implementing unit of government policies, plans, programs, projects, and activities in the community, as a forum wherein the collective views of the people may be expressed, crystallized and considered, and where disputes may be amicably settled,” it said.
“As the level of government closest to the people, each voter should be given regularly and without interruption the right to choose the leaders they see and interact with on a daily basis,” it added.
The renewed mandate of a community’s chairman/captain (punong barangay) and the council members (barangay kagawad) could beef up the enforcement of national projects and programs, institutional memories of BSK officials, and initiatives to recover from the pandemic and address economic challenges.
The three-year term of elective barangay officials, per RA 9164, remains unchanged.
The same period is applied to youth council officials, as amended under SK Law, but that of the incumbents elected in 2018 have exceeded three years.
RA 11768 introduced more SK reforms that must be accompanied by a fresh mandate via elections of the SK chairman and members.
These changes include giving the youth council the power to formulate and approve its internal rules and procedures, to appoint its secretary and treasurer subject to additional requirements, and to set the schedule of regular SK meetings and Katipunan ng Kabataan assemblies; exempting SK officials from the National Service Training Program; granting monthly honorarium to SK members and appropriate civil service eligibility; and allowing the SK to allocate an amount of its funds for its mandatory and continuing training.
Such law that was enacted in May, likewise, affirms the requirement that SK officials must be “at least eighteen (18) years but not more than twenty-four (24) years of age on the day of the elections.”
“SK elections are rendered timely by the fact that the current SK chair and members may already be more than 24 years old. The time is ripe for them to yield power to the youth of their barangays,” Namfrel stated.
The election monitoring organization pointed out that “the voice of the people is priceless,” as far as savings is concerned, and could not be reduced to monetary terms. It added that spending has already started for the BSKE, particularly for procurement of supplies, forms, and paraphernalia, which Namfrel has been monitoring.
Preparations for the BSKE are already being done by the Commission on Elections amid the push to postpone it. In fact, voter registration is ongoing until July 23.
The poll body’s one million target on new registrations for the BSKE has been surpassed at more than 1.71 million as of July 19. The Comelec expects a turnout of 66.053 million and 23.059 million voters for the barangay and SK polls, respectively.