LUCENA CITY, Philippines -- Quezon Representative Lorenzo Tañada III insisted on Tuesday that House Bill 2417 postponing the scheduled barangay (village) and Sangguniang Kabataan (youth council) elections, is "unconstitutional."
"While the legislature can fix the term of local officials, it cannot extend their tenure," he said in a statement sent to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company of INQUIRER.net.
He called on his fellow solons to start the 14th Congress “by being real representatives of our people."
“Let not this shameful bill blemish the very image that we are starting to rebuild for the House of Representatives,” he stressed.
He noted that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has already declared that they are ready to oversee the village and youth polls originally scheduled next month.
Citing the position of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms, Tañada lamented that the first postponement of the village elections in 2005 already gave sitting barangay and SK officials two years of “un-mandated” leadership and another postponement would only extend the “credulity” of their mandate even more.
The solon chided the Comelec for its plan to use the village polls as a “guinea pig for election automation,” saying it “smacks of hypocrisy."
He dismissed the arguments of local officials that the lack of funds justifies the postponement.
“That lack of funds, not by Comelec, but by those who would bankroll the campaigns of barangay captains and Sangguniang Kabataan, should actually be a strong reason why the October barangay elections should not be postponed,” he stressed.
“At least, somehow, performance and not money politics would determine the outcome of the village elections,” he added.
On Monday, voting 149 for, 50 against, and with four abstentions, the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading House Bill 2417 which reset the synchronized village and youth elections.
Under the proposed legislation, the scheduled October 29 election will be moved to the second Monday of May 2009.
The 2007 General Appropriations Act gave the Comelec P9.17 billion budget, almost half of this, or P5.2 billion, spent for the May polls.
The village and SK elections will cost P2.131 billion.
House Bill 2417 has been forwarded to the Senate for its concurrence.
Senate President Manuel Villar, Jr. has indicated he would facilitate consideration of the bill by the senators. Villar said he recognized that House members were in the best position to feel the pulse of their constituents.
The poll body has issued Resolution Number 8264 enumerating the calendar of activities in relation to the October 29 elections.
The resolution states the election period will start September 29 and end November 13.