THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) is open to postponing the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections next year, but hopes Congress will pass the legislation in three weeks.

“At least, they should indicate if a postponement is likely, so we will not go into unnecessary preparations and expenses,” said Comelec Chairman Jose Melo.

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He assured the Comelec is ready to conduct manual elections on Oct. 25, as scheduled.

Comelec officials met with the House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms yesterday to discuss the possible deferment of the October polls. At least 21 bills and two resolutions to that effect are being studied by the committee.

Melo, in an interview, advised against synchronizing the village polls with the local and national elections in 2013, saying that will drive up costs. More voters will compel the commission to pay for more vote-counting machines, he explained.

Meanwhile, Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes said he disagrees with calls to abolish the SK or postponing the October elections.

As a compromise, he said, the SK may be replaced instead by requiring the election of a youth representative in all barangay councils, during the regular barangay elections.

The mayor also suggested the youth representative should be 18 to 21 years old.

Amid disenchantment with the SK, the mayor also commended some SK leaders and youth groups in the city for using their funds to buy garbage trucks, instead of spending these on basketball uniforms and sports tournaments.

Cortes cited the work done by the Youth Ecological Advocacy and Health (YEAH), who encouraged pupils to bring to school recyclable items, in exchange for school supplies or snacks.

SK National President Jane Cajes appealed to lawmakers not to push for the abolition of the SK, as suggested by President Benigno Aquino III. (He instead suggested the election of a youth representative within the barangay councils.)

So far, no bills have been filed in Congress pushing for the abolition of the SK council.

The House committee on suffrage will again meet on Monday to try to consolidate all the bills on the schedule of the SK and barangay elections.

Comelec officials were asked to submit a position paper on the difficulties the poll body may encounter if the polls are deferred to 2011.

The Department of Budget and Management reported in yesterday’s hearing that out of the P3.4-billion budget, P3.2 billion is still available.

But Rep. Gabriel Quisumbing (Cebu Province, 6th district), who earlier filed a bill seeking the postponement of the elections, said pushing through with the October polls will “further divide our nation.”

Sherwin Gatchalian, president of the League of Cities of the Philippines, and Rico Echiverri, president of the Liga ng mga Barangay, said in the hearing that they also favor the postponement of the polls. (OCP/Sunnex)