ONE bit of news last week was the twin resolutions reportedly filed by Congressmen Anthony Golez and Manny Pacquiao recommending the postponement of the October 2010 barangay elections. The gist of the resolutions was that, coming on the heels of the recently-concluded national and local elections, having another one for barangay officials so soon will entail expenses that the country can ill-afford.
Let's discuss both sides of the picture.
It's true that the barangay elections will entail huge expenses for the government, especially the Comelec. It's also true that given the billions of pesos that were spent during the elections last May, having another electoral exercise all over the archipelago less than six months after is going to be a drain on money which may be better spent on other worthwhile activities.
Certainly, the amount that the Aquino Government will spend, other than the budget already allocated to the Commission on Elections, could very well be used to feed, house or clothe many needy Filipinos. Viewed from this angle, nobody can fault either Congressman Golez or Congressman Pacquiao from seeking a postponement.
On the other hand, I side with the objectors to a postponement. Let me share some of our views with you.
First of all, as far as budgetary constraints are concerned, I don't think there is any. The 2010 barangay election is mandated by existing law and Congress has already allocated Comelec with the budget to carry it through. The money has already been appropriated in the Annual Budget and it cannot be re-aligned for any other purpose. Since the budget is there, and since the money can legally be expended only for the barangay elections, I say let's go through with it then.
Secondly, the Aquino government is pushing to reform the government bureaucracy, one means toward which is putting in new and fresh faces in place of the ones who have stayed too long in their positions and have become too comfortable in their seats of power to adequately represent their constituent's will. The winds of change should be given a chance to operate also upon that most fundamental unit of government, the barangay.
Thirdly, postponing the barangay elections for another year only gives our newly elected officials (congressmen, governors, mayors) the opportunity to consolidate their hold on the barangay officials and the latter's constituents, at the same time allowing them one year to consolidate campaign funds for another trapo-type elections. They have less opportunity now, having virtually exhausted their campaign coffers last May. Holding the barangay elections this October gives the barangay candidates more freedom and independence to hold a clean and honest exercise, free from the clutches of politicians.
Past barangay elections have been characterized by the candidates being chosen and funded by municipal and city officials. This is not the way it should be. The Local Government Code dictates that barangay officials must be non-partisan.
They should not be controlled by and made patsies of the mayor, the governor and/or the congressman. Given the transactional and money-oriented elections that we've had in the past, the opposite has invariably happened. It will not happen if the elections were to be held at a time when neither government nor local government officials have the surplus cash to influence the barangay elections.
Postpone the elections because of money constraints? I say let's have the elections now while no one has money.