The last barangay and youth councils elections happened on May 14, 2018, and if the village polls scheduled in December this year would be postponed for another year, the current officials would be extended for another year, making them stay in their positions for five years.

Reelected village officials would be staying in their offices longer.

In 2013, the elections for the Sangguniang Barangay (SB) were held but no polls were held for the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) as the Congress postponed it. The next village elections were supposed to happen in October 2016, but these were postponed to October 2017 and further to May 14, 2018.

The 2020 village elections were postponed after then President Rodrigo Duterte signed in late 2019 the law rescheduling the polls to Dec. 5, 2022.

Several lawmakers have suggested postponing the December SB and SK elections so the National Government can save funds of up to P8 billion, and this amount could be used for the country’s pandemic response.

Rep. Rachel “Cutie” del Mar of Cebu City North District has filed a bill to amend the law that postponed the 2020 barangay and youth councils elections, saying holding it would contribute to the “present division” of the electorate. Her other reason why she wanted to move the elections is the suffering brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

There are groups though that do not share the views of Representative del Mar and other lawmakers. The Legal Network for Truthful Elections or Lente and the Ateneo Human Rights Center said in a statement that the delay in the elections “contravenes the standard of period elections as provided in Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

Article 21.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.”

Also, Article 21.3 states that “the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.”

Lente and other groups have said Filipinos’ basic right to elect village and youth leaders must not be sacrificed just because of the country’s pandemic response.

“We see the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections as the most attainable level of organic citizens’ participation in public service and governance,” the groups said, adding that it is “the best testament that citizens with limited resources would like to take part in nation-building given the opportunities.”

Indeed, saving money for pandemic response must not be the reason to postpone the barangay and youth elections.

The suffering of residents who are sick of their current village and youth leaders for their poor performances since 2018 must be stopped.

Lawmakers must not reschedule the Dec. 5, 2022 Barangay Council and SK Elections. Villagers must be able to exercise their right to choose their next leaders in their barangays this year.