Press Release
September 20, 2017

Explanation of Vote on the Bill Postponing the Barangay Elections
By Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto
20 September 2017

This second postponement must be the final one. It should be a non-extendable deferment. If we scrap again the elections in May, it will constitute a strike three against democracy.

Dapat po nating tandaan na officials in this land--from the President down to the barangay captain--have the same employment status: they're casuals elected to fixed terms.

Having expiry dates on elective post is one of democracy's greatest virtues. Ibig sabihin, walang forever.

And nothing inspires good performance more than the threat of being terminated. This fear of feeling the end of the boot is what keeps us casuals always on our toes.

Sadly, we have been cavalier in postponing barangay elections because we treat them as far outposts of government. No, they are not. They are the first line of public service. They are the people's first contact with government; not the last.

Because of these, many justifications have been advanced on why we have to postpone barangay polls.

I put them into four clusters, which I call the four Fs: funding, fatigue, fighting the drug wars, and the freeze on public works and government hiring.

First is funding.

Makakatipid daw? Pero paano? The math here is that by putting off the elections for a year, we are only putting aside funds budgeted for the elections for a year.

We can only save money if we are permanently cancelling the polls. But we are only postponing it.

In budget-speak, savings accrue from a terminated project, not from a deferred one. So instead of spending at least P7 billion if we will hold the elections this year, we will only delay spending it by a year, so in the end, we will still have to spend that P7 billion.

In fact, on the contrary, we will be spending more. Some preparatory activities the Comelec had done will be repeated. For one, the new round of voter's registration will have to be conducted.

Another familiar refrain we are hearing is "election fatigue."

That could be the case if barangay elections are 90-day marathons like the campaign period for the presidency. But the one for the barangay is a short 10-day sprint.

The third pretext is that a barangay election would distract the government from pursuing its Great War on Illegal Drugs.

But the effect of the postponement is that barangay officials who coddle or are in cahoots with drug lords are gifted with another year in office.

Postponement will rob barangay residents of the chance to boot out barangay officials who moonlight as drug traders or whose feeble leadership allowed the proliferation of narcotics in their areas.

Another fighting being cited is the one in Marawi. But that pocket war is limited to a small sliver of land. Bombs are not falling in Dinagat. The bullets do not ricochet up to the Visayas.

The last of the alibis is that the barangay elections would freeze public works construction, as well as the hiring and deployment of government personnel.

But isn't it true, Mr. President, that whether there are elections or not, projects are delayed? That funds are not released? That allotments are not obligated? That personnel positions are not filled?

So let me ask this: Was an election ever a culprit for underspending? Never.

You know this because the Senate is in the midst of hearing the 2018 national budget and in the process we have discovered underspending, and not once did elections been cited for the agencies' low absorption of funds.

My fundamental reservations against postponement remain, but I am voting "Yes" to this bill because the brewing uncertainty on whether the elections will push through or not has negatively affected the preparations.

If we proceed as scheduled, my fear is that, given the overall unpreparedness, we will be holding an election that will be pilloried for many shortcomings.

I am also voting "Yes" on the palabra de honor of Malacanang that this will be the last cancellation.

Instead of saving money, there is a fiscal cost in cancelation. By foregoing elections, we are paying a postponement fee, and I am referring to expenses for preparatory activities.

On the matter of funding, I am glad that the good sponsor has accepted my amendment that the amount of P6.09 billion appropriated in RA 10651 and RA 10717 be treated as continuing appropriations that will fund the holding of the barangay elections next May.

This cancels the need to augment Comelec's 2018 budget as proposed in the 2018 General Appropriations Bill.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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