By Gillian M. Cortez
THE Senate will assist the Commission on Elections (Comelec) regarding funding for the Bangsomoro Organic Law (BOL) plebiscite next year.
“It’s a law newly passed by the Senate. It’s certified urgent as of the middle of the year so it’s understandable that it was not funded by the 2018 GAA(General Appropriations Act) which was signed into law in December of 2017,” Committee on Finance Chair Senator Loren B. Legarda said at the budget hearing for the Comelec on Monday.
The Comelec reported its projected funding requirement for the BOL plebiscite on Jan. 21 next year to be more than P857 million. Appropriation for the BOL plebiscite wasn’t included in both the 2018 GAA and the 2019 National Expenditure Program
In the BOL, Section 11 of Article 15 reads “The amount necessary to provide for the requirements of the conduct of the plebiscite, including the monitoring, information campaign, and the registration of voters shall be charged against available funds in the current General Appropriations Act.”
Ms. Legarda recommended that the Comelec write a request letter immediately regarding the plebiscite budget to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) so the DBM can immediately look through the urgency of funding the plebiscite set in four months.
“We understand that there was a previous communication (between the Comelec and the DBM) but the response was negative,” she said, regarding DBM’s reply to the Comelec that the Comission should get funding from Comelec savings of which there are none.
“Immediately make your request so we can help you shepherd through the process (and) we will have a plebiscite in check,” Ms. Legarda told Comelec officials at the hearing.
Comelec chairman Sheriff M. Abas emphasized the need for the plebiscite to take place months before the midterm elections scheduled in May.
“Manual ang plebesito. Sa law, nilagay it takes 90 days kaya kailangan Enero 21 (The plebiscite is manual. In the law, it takes 90 days [for the whole plebiscite process] so it’s necessary [that it’s scheduled on] January 21,” Mr. Abas said.
Voter registration for the Bangsamoro plebiscite began on September 10. Comelec said it expects a voter turnout of 2 to 3 million next year.
Meanwhile, P6 billion pesos of the Comelec’s total national budget for 2019 was appropriated to next year’s National and Local Elections, as compared with the P7.1 million in the 2016 general elections.