Sunday, September 16, 2007

Poll postponement all up to Senate

House rushes bill moving elections to 2009 Only 6 weeks left before Oct. 29 SK, barangay polls

By EDMER F. PANESA - Manila bulletin

The fate of the proposal to postpone the synchronized barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections slated on Oct. 29, 2007, now lies in the hands of the Senate.

While Speaker Jose de Venecia said yesterday that bill postponing the elections to May in 2009 is expected to be approved by the House of Representatives on third and final reading tomorrow, it needs quick Senate action and approval, or the elections set for Oct. 29 will proceed as scheduled.

Majority Leader Rep. Arthur Defensor of Iloilo and Senior Deputy Majority Leader Rep. Neptali Gonzales Jr. of Mandaluyong City both expressed confidence that the bill will hurdle third-reading approval by Monday. They said this will give the Senate enough time to move it through committee and plenary approval before Congress takes its first break starting Oct. 13.

"It will be up to the Senate to decide whether the polls should be postponed or not," Defensor said.

Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms, had earlier said it is unlikely for senators to endorse the proposal to defer the barangay and SK elections to the second Monday of May in 2009.

Gordon said incumbent barangay and SK officials had already enjoyed a three-year term extension because the polls have been postponed twice. The last village and youth polls were held in 2002. Elections were scheduled for 2005 but these were postponed.

Similar views have also been expressed by other senators who want the elections held as scheduled.

Secretary Ronaldo Puno of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) had also said his department sees no reason for the postponement since funds are already available for the elections.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is also proceeding with all preparations for the Oct. 29 elections. It has already deputized the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police and other organizations to ensure the security of the elections.

It has reminded the candidates of the mandatory drug testing for all candidates.

It has announced that the same precincts used in the last elections will be open on Oct. 29.

With only about six weeks left before Oct. 29, observers said it now depends on the Senate whether it will go along with the House proposal for postponement. It will have to deliberate and approve the measure and then a bicameral committee will have to resolve any differences between the Senate and House bills.

Then President Arroyo will have to sign the bill into law.

All these many steps must be taken in the next six weeks, if the elections are to be postponed.

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