A Comelec spectacle-A A +A
Thursday, October 10, 2013
THERE are 42,028 barangays in the Philippines. On Oct. 28, they are scheduled to elect their new set of officials.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) needs a little over P3 billion to fund that election. In the past, Congress readily made the money available but this time it appropriated only P1.17 billion. That’s P2 billion short of the budgetary requirement.
So the election body went to a little-known law for help: Section 50 of the Omnibus Election Code. It says that “local governments shall appropriate such funds to defray necessary and reasonable expenses” in an election.
The expenses include allowances and transportation expenses of the board of election tellers (BET) and the board of canvassers, the printing of election forms, the procurement of election paraphernalia and the installation of polling booths.
In Resolution No. 9739, the Comelec required all local government units to set aside an “augmentation fund” of not less than P10,000 and not more than 10 percent of the fund reserved by the barangays for the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK).
Note that the Comelec order is addressed to all local government units (LGUs), not just the barangays.
Targeting the SK funds, however, is rubbing salt on raw wound because the SK election has been postponed, but in fairness to the Comelec, Resolution No. 9739 was passed at a time when the postponement was still up in the air.
There are only 18 more days left before the elections. Ideally, the augmentation fund should have already been set up, cash firmly in the hands of the town or city election officer ready for disbursement as the need arises. Unfortunately, only a very few barangays have remitted their contributions and some of those who have, paid only partially.
In the meantime, teachers who belong to the militant Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) are threatening not to serve in the BET unless their allowances are increased. Is the nation in danger of witnessing a failure of elections?
Not in Cebu, says Cebu Provincial Election Supervisor Lionel Castillano. He confirmed that majority of the barangays in the island have not yet given their shares for the cost of running the election but expressed confidence that they will eventually pay.
And if they don’t?
“We will make do with what we have,” Castillano told us on Frankahay Ta! yesterday morning. The threat from militant teachers to boycott the election does not worry him. “They’re very few,” he said. “Majority of the teachers will serve, as they have done so in the past, not for the money but out of a sense of civic duty.”
This is the first time, as far as I can remember, that the Comelec has invoked Section 50 of the Election Code in order to conduct an election and the poll body blames the “insufficiency of the funds appropriated” for this.
Why Congress set aside only P1,175,098,000 for the barangay and SK elections knowing that the amount is not enough for the purpose is indeed puzzling. I hope it is not a statement of their low regard of the barangay and the barangay officials.
Lack of funds? Possibly. But note that each congressman gets P70 million in pork barrel every year, each senator P200 million. In addition, millions of pesos more are allotted to them from the Disbursement Acceleration Program and from congressional insertions in the budget.
If they had only shaved off P10 million each from their pork barrel for one year, we wouldn’t have witnessed this sad spectacle of the Comelec alternately, begging, cajoling and threatening the barangays to cough up P10,000 for their elections.
On the other hand, maybe, that’s asking too much from our honorable legislators.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 10, 2013.