SENATE Minority Leader Ralph Recto yesterday proposed to adjust the budget if the October barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections will be moved one year later.
Recto said that the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) 2017 budget must be increased to accommodate the estimated P3.4 billion estimated cost to elect the officials of the country’s 42,028 barangays.
As both houses of Congress finalize legislation that will postpone the October polls, Recto has raised as “the missing link in the discussions” the need to appropriate funds for next year’s elections in the 2017 national budget.
Recto said that from P16.2 billion this year, the Comelec’s budget will fall to P3.3 billion next year, on the assumption that no national election will be held in 2017.
The Senate is about to report out a bill postponing the scheduled Oct. 31, 2016 joint barangay and SK elections to the last Monday of October 2017.
To enforce the postponement, Recto said the Comelec must be given additional funds in its 2017 budget.
“The postponement bill must have as its companion measure the national budget,” he said.
Recto said that while the Comelec can still use the budget for this year’s barangay and SK elections for next year, “there are appropriations there which are valid for only one year, so there will be deficiencies.”
There will also be new expenditures such as the registration of first-time voters, he added.
“Also, for the sake of transparency and accuracy, it would be better if such a large expense will be spelled out in the national budget,” Recto said.
Explaining the need to set aside funds, Recto warned that by postponing the elections without providing funds, some quarters might speculate that there will be another bill next year postponing the elections again.
Recto said the argument that postponing the elections will save funds does not entirely hold true, “for you are not cancelling the elections, but only postponing it.”
“So instead of spending one peso this year, you will delay spending it by a year, so at the end you will still have to spend that one peso,” Recto said.
The long-term solution to the spectacle of having barangay elections every three years, Recto said, is to enact a law lengthening terms of barangay officials to at least four years.