(UPDATED) - The House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms has decided to postpone again the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections to October 8, 2018.
While the House committee is deliberating on the four bills seeking the postponement of the upcoming elections, Deputy Speaker and Cebu Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia made a motion to postpone the political exercise, which was set for May 14.
Voting 15-2, Garcia's motion was carried by the committee.
Agusan del Norte 1st District Representative Lawrence Fortun and Caloocan 2nd District Rep. Edgar Erice voted against.
Voting 17-0, the committee voted to reschedule the polls from May 14 to the second Monday of October this year.
The voting was conducted barely a month after Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said he saw no reason to further postpone the elections.
Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali earlier filed a bill calling for another postponement of the forthcoming elections so that Congress could focus on amending the 1987 Constitution and complete it before the May 2019 midterm elections.
Umali filed the bill even after the Commission on Elections announced that they were 85-percent ready for the political exercise in May.
The barangay and SK elections have twice been postponed - from October 2016 to October 2017 and then to May 2018.
Had the Senate filed a counterpart bill and if it decides to postpone the exercise, this would be the third postponement of the village elections.
Erice, before the voting transpired, voiced out his objections.
"Mr. Chairman, this is the third time that we will be postponing barangay elections. Ang eleksyon po e simbolo yan ng demokrasya," he said.
"If we will continue postponing elections even it is barangay, parang pinaglalaruan na lang natin ito, parang di mahalaga ang karapatan ng mga mamamayan na pumili ng mga leader," Erice added.
Erice lamented the committee's decision to push through with the voting on the first hearing day on the four bills, even without the presence of representatives from different sectors, including the commissioners of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
"Pinaglalaruan natin (elections) Bakit? kasi gusto natin maisabay yung plebesito at bakit gusto natin magkaron ng plebesito para maaprubahan yung ating constitutional change na maglalaman na tayong lahat ay maeextend ang term," he said.
Erice further said that Rep. Umali talked to him and some lawmakers in Shangrila and urged them to support the postponement of the polls.
"Lahat ng Metro Manila pinagdadala kami ng tao sa Plaza Miranda para mag-rally para hilingin yung postponement ng barangay elections. Kasama pa dun si Atty. (Edmund) Abesamis," said Erice.
"Ito po ay pagdi-disturb sa democratic process ng ating bansa. Hindi po ito maganda," he added.
Deputy Speaker and Batangas 2nd District Rep. Raneo "Rani" Abu denounced Erice's statement.
"I would like to react strongly dun sa statement ni Congressman Erice na pinaglalaruan lang natin ang tao. Ang at stake dito yung position namin, ang at stake dito kung ano ang gagawin samin ng tao dun sa distrito namin. Nagpunta kami dito dala-dala namin yung gusto ng nga tao dun," he said.
Abu said his constituents are in favor of the postponement of the elections.
Erice, in answer to the former also said that what he voiced out was also his constituents' stance.
For his part, Surigao del Norte Rep. Ace Barbers said that postponing the elections does not go against the principles of democracy.
"We are just postponing this particular elections because there are more serious problems that we should address first before we continue this," Barbers stressed.
He noted that the previous administration also postponed the elections in the past years.
ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio, not a member of the committee, also objected to the motion.
"Ang sabi ng Presidente ng Liga ng Baranggay [ng Pilipinas] si Atty. [Edmund] Abesamis, of course sinusuportahan nila ngunit sinabi din nila na 'hindi po self-serving, hindi po makasarili ang pagsuporta namin. May mga ibang dahilan po," he said.
He continued: "Mawalang galang na po Attorney pero ang kapal ng mukha niyo para sabihin na hindi self-serving ang proposal. Marami sa inyo mga third-termer na."
The chairman of the panel, Sherwin Tugna, ordered that the statement of Tinio be stricken out of the record for being unparliamentary.
Shortly after that, Tugna suspended the hearing.
Nueva Ecija 4th District Rep. went to Abesamis to pacify the latter and Lorenzo Zuniga, the secretary general of the Liga ng mga Barangay sa Pilipinas, went to Tinio and threatened the latter.
Quezon City 1st Disrict Rep. Cong. Crisologo, seated beside Tinio, scolded Zuniga and advised him to calm down and not to threaten Tinio as he is a member of the House.
During the hearing, Abesamis said the Liga ng mga Barangay supports the bills for postponement.
"Let me say your honors that this is not for any self-serving or parochial reasons we have been saying that the term of office of the barangay officials should be amended from three years to five years or at least two terms," Abesamis said.
The bills deliberated upon by the above mentioned committee were filed by Representatives Umali, Johnny Pimentel, Jose Panganiban and Edgar Sarmiento.
This has been the third time that the said committee pushed for the postponement of the upcoming polls. (SunStar Philippines)