By Minde Nyl R. dela Cruz

THE BILL seeking to postpone the synchronized barangay and sangguniang kabataan (SK) elections from May 14 to Oct. 8 this year has hurdled second reading in the House of Representatives.

House Bill (HB) 7378 is a consolidation of four bills authored by Surigao Del Sur Rep. Johnny Ty Pimentel (HB 7072), ANAC-IP party-list Rep. Jose T. Panganiban, Jr. (HB 7128), Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo V. Umali (HB 7167), and Samar Rep. Edgar Mary S. Sarmiento (HB 7217).

Mr. Panganiban cited in the explanatory note of his original proposal the anticipated “referendum or plebiscite over the impending debate on amending or revising the 1987 Constitution” as the reason for postponing anew the elections.

But ACT Teachers party-list Rep. Antonio L. Tinio, during the interpellation, said this was baseless.

“Kaya raw Oktubre, para isabay sa plebiscite. Eh ’yung plebiscite na ’yon, drawing lang….Ibig sabihin, Mr. Speaker, pwedeng dumating ang Oktubre, hindi pa handa ang plebesito, ay baka ipaurong ulit ito,” Mr. Tinio said. (Apparently, they wanted the elections in October for the plebiscite. But that plebiscite is just a projection… It means, Mr. Speaker, that should October come and the plebiscite is not yet ready, the election could be postponed again.)

In response, CIBAC party-list Sherwin N. Tugna, chair of the House committee on suffrage and co-author of the consolidated bill, said: “[T]he proposed postponement of the barangay elections to Oct. 8, 2018 with the corresponding possibility of plebiscite will be beneficial to the country if in case a Charter change will be approved because it will save the government of conducting a barangay and SK elections and a plebiscite on two different occasions.”

Should the measure be enacted into law, this will be the third time the barangay and SK elections will be postponed.

For their part, senators of the opposition Liberal Party said postponing the elections would lead to a no-election scenario in May 2019, the scheduled midterm elections.

Senate Minority Floor Leader Franklin M. Drilon said: “Ang pagkilos na ito ng Kamara ay patunay lang ng aking unang binanggit na talagang may plano silang ipagpaliban ang eleksyon sa 2019 para mapalawig ang kanilang termino.” (This move by the Congress is a proof of my earlier pronouncements that there is really a plan to postpone the 2019 elections to extend their terms.)

Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, who co-authored and co-sponsored the SK Reform Law, said that “[t]here is no initiative in the Senate and no reason to postpone the Barangay and SK elections again.”