Aquino urged to certify as urgent bill moving SK polls to 2016

COMMISSION on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes renewed Thursday his call for President Benigno Aquino III to certify as urgent a bill seeking to move the Sangguniang Kabataan polls to October 2016.

On Tuesday, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. filed Senate Bill 1186, which seeks to synchronize the SK elections with the barangay polls on the last Monday of October 2016.

If Congress fails to enact a law suspending the youth polls, new sets of leaders for the SK and barangay councils will be elected on October 28.

"It needs to be certified by the President (as urgent) if he wants to postpone the SK because that would require a law. He needs to certify it as early as now," said Brillantes.

The poll chief said they need the decision of President Benigno Aquino III as early as possible since the Comelec is already in the thick of preparations for the synchronized elections.

The 10-day voter registration for the October polls ended on Wednesday.

Brillantes said the riotous scene on the last day of voter registration is another proof that the barangay and SK needs to be reformed as it has been politicized as the regular elections.

"We can avoid a repeat of that incident if we abolish the SK and the barangay elections. Including the barangay, yes. We have long advocated for it," said Brillantes.

He, however, agreed that the bill of Marcos would already be a good start even if it just calls for the postponement of the SK polls.

"Senator Marcos' bill is okay for me, which is to cancel and then reset the SK polls later. Our qualification for that is we want to see if the barangays can run without the SK. If it will run without the SK, let's abolish it. If it cannot run, then let's elect the SK," said Brillantes.

In filing Senate Bill 1186, Marcos said the elections had become "almost meaningless" unless reforms are introduced in the structure, accountability, and other aspect of governance of the present SK structure.

On Wednesday, applicants for registration braved the long lines, hunger, fatigue, and the rain as well as stampedes, in order to be able to file their application on the final day of voter registration.

The Comelec said its initial data showed that applications to become regular voters in the barangay polls have reached 1.2 million, which is higher than its projected 700,000.

On the other hand, applicants for the SK are already being placed at 2.3 million, also higher than the poll body's two million projection.

Brillantes rued the scene in several Comelec offices describing it as being "abnormal" while pinning the blame on potential candidates for the barangay and SK polls as being responsible for the unusually large number of new applicants and transferees by engaging in the "hakot" system.

"It seems that the elections will be really intense. The rivals want to register as many as possible. My assessment is one candidate herded registrants. The rival saw it and herded his own. That is why they all piled up," said Brillantes.

"Hakot" is the practice of politicians of transporting people, presumably supporters, to register for the elections, usually in exchange for money, food, transportation, and other perks or promises.

He admitted though that it cannot be considered as an act of vote-buying since those allegedly responsible cannot be considered candidates yet since the campaign period is not until October 18.

"There is no vote buying until the start of the campaign period. There's no campaign period yet. But, technically, what they are doing is like vote-buying too," said Brillantes.

In turn, the elections chief vowed to be strict in screening qualified applicants by making full use of the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS).

"I'm sure we can find many unable to meet the residency requirement, double registrations, etc.," said the official.

Brillantes said they intend to finish the list of voters for the Barangay and SK polls before the end of the month for them to be able to come up with the Project of Precincts. (HDT/Sunnex)
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