THE NATIONAL Citizen’s Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) on Wednesday rejected a proposal to defer by a year village elections scheduled for December.

“The will of the people, as expressed through the ballot, is the very essence of democracy,” the watchdog said in a statement. “This should not be set aside again.”

Namfrel said voters should be allowed to choose their local leaders regularly and “without interruption.”

Senator Jose “Jinggoy” E. Estrada earlier filed a bill seeking to postpone village ang youth elections to December 2023, citing the coronavirus pandemic as a concern.

He said the budget for the elections could be used to fund other economic programs that would help industries recover from the pandemic.

Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesman John Rex C. Laudiangco told reporters in a Viber message the budget for the December elections is P8.44 million.

Namfrel argued that local projects would be strengthened under new officials and lead to more pandemic response initiatives at the community level.

Barangays or villages are the smallest political unit in the Philippines and are the primary planning and implementing unit of the government in communities, the watchdog said.

More than 1.71 million Filipinos have registered for the elections. The registration started on July 4 and will run until July 23.

The Kabataan Party-list also opposed the postponement.

“Election postponement would actually hinder rather than help achieve efficient governance and services for pandemic recovery,” Party-list Rep. Raoul A. Manuel said in a statement. — John Victor D. Ordoñez