Decision on October polls stalled

08/24/2010 - AFTER almost three hours of deliberation, the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms failed to render a decision on the fate of the upcoming October 25 polls.

In a vote of 21 to 3, the committee favored the motion of Deputy Speaker Jesus Crispin Remulla (seventh district, Cavite) to postpone its action on whether or not to reschedule the polls.

"We have to defer our consensus regarding the postponement of the Sangguniang Kabataan and barangay elections because the committee is not yet complete," Remulla told reporters after the hearing.

He however said that the committee will decide on the issue on Wednesday.

Representatives Rufus Rodriguez (second district, Cagayan de Oro), Anthony Golez (lone district, Bacolod City), and Antonio Alvarez (first district, Palawan) opposed the motion.

Remulla earlier backed the postponement of the synchronized barangay and SK elections to allow the government to realign the allocated P3.2 billion budget for the delivery of basic social services.

For his part, House Minority Floor Leader Edcel Lagman (first district, Albay) was positive that Malacanang will not veto the measure.

"If there's strong political will in the Senate and the House, I don't think the President will veto the bill because it is more representative. In case the President will veto the measure days before October 25 then the Commission on Elections is pressed to hold an 11th hour election," he said in a separate briefing.

"A veto would be a test case but I don't think we will reach that stage. I think the President will think twice in rejecting the bill," he added.

Meantime, committee chair Elpidio Barzaga Jr (fouth district, Cavite) announced that Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. (fourth district, Quezon City) will hold a caucus anytime this week to get the voice of its 268 members.

Reports said that the majority and minority bloc members of the House have crossed party lines to support the deferment of the polls but Iloilo Representative (first district) Janette Garin maintained that time constraints could spell doom for the proposed measure.

"We just don't have the time to deliberate and act on the proposals," she said.

But Barzaga believed otherwise.

"I think we still have the ample time as long as we can unify our acts, that means there will be an agreement among the House leadership, Senate leadership and of course the President," he said.

Akbayan Representative Walden Bello, on the other hand, urged his fellow lawmakers to reconsider their positions, for the sake of "economic and social reforms."

"Cancelling barangay elections threatens the recovery from the very low-level growth we achieved the previous year. Election spending always triggers growth. Electoral spending for the May elections helped us recover, and electoral spending for the October elections will sustain the recovery," he said in a statement.

President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III said the October 25 elections should push through and synchronize the next one with the May 2013 senatorial polls.

But Representative Danilo Suarez (3rd district, Quezon) said that Malacanang's proposal would set a "dangerous scenario."

"If we synchronize the elections, from national officials down to the barangay level, then we can only expect chaos. I think many will die due to violence. If the government wants to save with this plan, then that's the wrong way to save money," he said.

Budget and Management director Dingle Gutierrez said the billions of pesos that will be saved from the postponement of the barangay elections will be reverted back to the national treasury
(Sunstar)

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