Congress mulls postponement of village polls to 2016

CEBU CITY –- Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said Tuesday that the House and Senate leaderships are considering the postponement of the October 2013 barangay elections until 2016.

This would synchronize it with the presidential election, as well as give the incumbent barangay leaders three more years to pursue their projects.

“We have too many elections in the Philippines,” Enrile said at a lunch meeting with 55 Cebu City village chiefs on Tuesday.

“That’s why we postponed the Armm (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) election so it can be synchronized with the May 2013 election, and we are definite on our stand to postpone the barangay election and synchronize it with the May 2016 presidential election,” Enrile said.

The Senate president said what they have initially agreed on in the Senate is that barangay officials will have a fixed six-year term with only one reelection.

Majority of the barangay captains present clapped and shouted, “Yes!” They said they favor a six-year term because three years is too short if incumbent village officials have lined up long-term projects.

“We accept the fact that the barangay is a very important branch of government because barangay officials are dealing directly with the grassroots. They know what exactly are the people’s problems. You are in the front line. The government must recognize that,” Enrile said.

He said postponement of the October 2013 barangay election may also pave the way for efforts to return to the two-party system.

He said the present multi-party political system is messy, because if a politician is kicked out of a party, he or she can always “go to a sari-sari store to buy his or her own party.”

There have been legislative proposals to limit the movements of political turncoats, but so far politicians are able to hop from one party to another without any consequences.

Enrile is identified with the United Nationalists Alliance (UNA).

Cebu City Association of Barangay Councils President Michael Ralota, who led the barangay captains in the meeting, said the proposed six-year term with one reelection will be good for the people whose leaders are performers, but bad if their leaders have done nothing.

Ralota added he foresees no problem with the synchronized barangay and presidential elections in 2016, because it will be automated.

He said that there are at least 21 bills in the Lower House that are related to the barangay election schedule, and the one extending the barangay election to 2015 is now on third reading.

The National Liga ng mga Barangays ng Pilipinas, of which he is the Central Visayas president, has lobbied for a six-year term, Ralota added.

Both Enrile and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte are in favor of synchronizing the barangay and presidential elections.

Interviewed separately, Talisay City Mayor Socrates Fernandez said he agrees that the village elections should be postponed. However, he also urged government officials to conduct a survey to find out if barangay officials are working or not.

“As much as I agree with postponing the barangay elections, it should be more important to know if our barangay officials are really serving their constituents before the Senate could agree on approving the postponement,” Fernandez said in Bisaya.

Some constituents might not want their current officials to stay in power much longer than their original term, he said. (EOB/With JKV of Sun.Star Cebu)

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