PRESIDENT Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III maintained that the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections on October 25 will push through amid calls of its suspension.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the President opted to go on with the elections because he does not want to extend the mandate of incumbent officials, also to give public freedom to choose new sets of leaders.
Several officials and even Vice President Jejomar Binay asked for the postponement or abolition of the conduct of barangay elections to save money for the government.
Not heeding the calls, the President made his own proposal to synchronize barangay and SK polls to the national and local elections in 2013 to save government's expenses.
"It is the only election na hindi kasabay. So the thrust of the election is to have everything synchronized national local and the baranagy para hindi magastos sa gobyerno," Lacierda said.
He noted that Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo already prepared a draft bill that will cut short the term of the barangay officials who will be affected by the amendment in elections.
Five months will be slashed from the term of those who will win in October village elections since the national election is always conducted during May.
Malacañang will also push for the abolition of SK council and just have one SK representative starting October 25 elections.
"We think it would also be efficient if there will be one SK representative. It would be enough," Lacierda added.
All this will be drafted in just one bill.
About 800 million will be saved by the government if the elections will be done at the same time, according to Lacierda.
He, meanwhile, assured that there is a budget for the forthcoming barangay and SK elections as guaranteed by Budget Secretary Butch Abad.
House sets public hearing
The House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms is set to conduct hearings on the proposal to postpone upcoming elections next week.
Committee chair Representative Elpidio Barzaga Jr. (fourth district, Cavite) said the committee hearing is scheduled on August 18 at 9:30 a.m.
The hearing will be attended by officials from the Commission on Elections (Comelec), Department of Budget and Management and Liga ng mga Barangay, together with lawmakers who sought the postponement of the elections.
While Barzaga said that Aquino's stand carries a great weight, it will not however greatly affect the position of the lawmakers.
"That is not actually necessarily meant that's the stand of the house, most especially the committee," said Barzaga.
Representatives Anthony Golez (lone district, Bacolod City) earlier filed a House bill seeking the resetting of the polls to October 2011. The bill was co-authored with boxing icon and Representative Manny Pacquiao (lone district, Sarangani).
Representative Gabriel Quisumbing (sixth district, Cebu) also filed a separate bill to defer the polls next year.
Atienza needs P10M for protest
On other developments, if Manila mayor Lito Atienza wants his election case to prosper, he needs to shell out P10 million.
Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said the amount would cover the cost of the retrieval of the ballots and ballot boxes used in the last elections.
He noted that the figure does not include the payment for the rental of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines to be used to recount the votes.
The order for the P10 million cash was based on the resolution issued by the poll body on the electoral protest case filed by Atienza against Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim.
Last July, the Comelec favored the case filed by Atienza after junking Lim's motion to dismiss the protest paving the way to recount the ballots.
Based on his complaint, Atienza alleged that electoral fraud and cheatings were committed in the May polls, which were the main reason he filed the protest and demanded a recount of ballots from more than 1,000 polling precincts in Manila.
Larrazabal also said that Atienza should deposit the money immediately for them to be able to start with the retrieval of ballot boxes, recount and revision of all contested ballots.
He said Atienza is allowed to file an appeal before the Commission en banc for possible reduction of the mandatory cash deposit if he wants to question the amount required.
Aside from the cost from the retrieval of the election paraphernalia, the poll body also included in the computation the payments of employees who will be involved in the recount. (Jill Beltran/Kathrina Alvarez/FP/Sunnex)