By Minde Nyl R. dela Cruz

THE proposed postponement of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections hurdled third reading in the House of Representatives on March 19.

The House voted 164-27 to approve House Bill 7378, which sought the elections postponement to Oct. 8 in anticipation of a plebiscite on the shift to a federal form of government.

However, the rationale did not sit well with lawmakers who disapproved the postponement.

Buhay party-list Representative Jose L. Atienza, Jr., who voted in the negative, noted that the “barangays are very essential to Philippine democracy” and added that postponing the election for another five months will weaken the “roots of democracy.”

Magdalo Representative Gary C. Alejano, another dissenter, pointed that there is still no assurance that a plebiscite will take place in October.

This will be the third time the barangay and SK elections will be postponed if the bill is enacted into law. But the Senate has already expressed opposition to another postponement.

Senate President Aquilino Martin L. Pimentel III, for his part said, “Postponement of barangay elections has no chance anymore in the Senate.”

Originally set in October 2016, the election was delayed for a year. It was later rescheduled to May 14 this year.

HB 7378 was sponsored by Surigao del Sur Representative Johnny Ty Pimentel, ANAC-IP Representative Jose T. Panganiban Jr., Oriental Mindoro Representative Reynaldo V. Umali, Samar Representative Edgar Mary S. Sarmiento, and CIBAC party-list Representative Sherwin N. Tugna.

For his part, Presidential Spokesperson Herminio Harry L. Roque, Jr. said:   “Well, nagsalita na po ang Presidente, ang desisyon po talaga, nakasalalay sa…Kongreso. Minsan po nagsalita sa Davao ang Presidente na nais na niyang matuloy iyan, pero siyempre po, hindi Presidente po ang nagdedesisyon diyan.” (Well, the President has spoken, the decision rests with…Congress. The President has said he favors going ahead with the polls, but this is not his decision.)

“Pero ang balita ko po wala nga pong suporta sa Senado ang pagpapaliban ng barangay election. So ang aking payo po sa mga nais kumandidato, maghanda po kayo, dahil habang wala pong conforme ang Senado, tuloy po ang eleksyon para sa barangay.” (But I’ve heard the postponement of the polls no longer has the Senate’s support. So my advice to those who want to run, be prepared already, because without the Senate’s support for postponement, the barangay [and SK] polls will push through.” — with Arjay L. Balinbin