Barangays in Quandary-A A +A
By DP Limlingan
Monday, October 14, 2013
I SHARE the same sentiments with many of our barangay officials in the province who are unwilling to spend funds for the coming elections. The amount may be cheap for those with high Internal Revenue Allotments and budgets, but not for barangays considered marginalized in terms of income.
A lot are asking why the Commission on Elections (Comelec) needs to partake some of the barangays’ funds for the conduct of the barangay polls this month. It’s the commission’s mandate to conduct the elections thus, it follows that it has its own budget and not slice a piece of the small pie that barangays have.
After spending so much for the conduct of the May midterm elections, the Comelec is now bent on asking each of the 505 barangays in Pampanga the amount of P10,000 to to spend for the upcoming polls.
Per reports, the poll body has been allocated some P1.175 billion for the barangay elections while the forecast for the actual expenses it may incur may reach P3.45 billion.
Barangay funds are for the people and not for the elections. While there are barangays who have incomes fit for a small municipality, there are barangays which have really meager budgets.
The funds being asked by the Comelec from the barangays are said to be intended for the payment of teachers who will serve the electoral process, notwithstanding the clamor of the teachers for a raise in their allowances when they troop to the polling precincts.
There is even a threat from teachers’ groups that they will boycott the elections should the Comelec fail to give them a raise in their pay for election services. Should the poll body heed to their demands, additional funds are then needed.
Meanwhile, ex-officio Board Member and Liga ng mga Barangay president Melchor Pingol said barangays will comply with the request of the Comelec to share some of their funds, despite the earlier opposition of many.
Pingol also said they will use their respective Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) funds as their share in the election expenses. The fact actually gives more questions of legality. One is, why do barangays need to shell out SK funds when the same is not theirs but to the SK?
A few days ago, President Benigno Aquino III signed a law postponing the conduct of the SK elections.
Local government units in the province led by Governor Lilia Pineda, the provincial board and the Pampanga Mayors’ League (PML) asked the Comelec and the Commission on Audit (COA) to immediately issue a joint circular on the legality of the use of barangay funds for the barangay elections to ensure that the disbursements of barangay funds for the elections will be put in proper and legal perspective.
The time element is another factor that hampers the disbursement of barangay funds for the elections. Barangays during their budget preparations last year did not allocate funds for the elections.
Thus, they are now in a quandary as to where they would get the same, considering that they have no time to augment funds for the election through supplemental budgeting. They are likewise under the threat of being charged for an election offense should they fail to allocate said funds.
Before it becomes too late, the Comelec should address this problem that the barangay officials face. The clock is ticking as the October 28 barangay election nears.
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Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on October 15, 2013.