SouthCot Rep. Fuentes favors postponing barangay polls

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/21 May) — Saying the country is still reeling from “fatigue” brought by the May 13 elections, South Cotabato (2nd District) Rep. Daisy Avance-Fuentes expressed support on Tuesday to moves by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to postpone the scheduled barangay elections in October.

Fuentes said deferring the barangay elections for several months or to a full year will give the Comelec more time to prepare and eventually help ease the tension brought about by last week’s national midterm and local polls.

“Almost everyone are still affected by election fatigue and that could trigger some problems if we push through with the (barangay elections) this October,” she said.

Fuentes, who was elected governor of South Cotabato in the May 13 polls, said she is not well aware of the current sentiments of her other colleagues at the House of Representatives regarding the matter but cited that several congressmen had previously pushed for such move.

A total of 14 proposed bills seeking the holding of the 2013 barangay elections to earlier and later dates were filed in the 15th Congress but they remained pending before the House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms.

On Monday, Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes said he wants the October barangay elections postponed to 2014 or early 2015 so they could already start with their preparations for the 2016 national and local elections.

He said such situation would allow the Comelec to make early recommendations with the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee in connection with the conduct of the 2016 polls.

Fuentes said that while the postponement of the barangay polls needs congressional action, specifically the revision of Republic Act (RA) 9340, any decision on the matter would still depend upon the preference of the Aquino administration.

RA 9340 mandates the conduct of synchronized elections for Barangay and the Sangguniang Kabataan every three years, specifically on the last Monday of October.

“If Malacanang will back it (postponement) up and make it an urgent matter, I think Congress will support it,” Fuentes said.

Should a postponement is eventually decided, she said it would be ideal to hold the elections not later than October 2014 so the Comelec can concentrate on preparing for the 2016 polls by 2015.

Fuentes said deferring the barangays polls beyond 2014 will be difficult for some barangays, especially within the province, whose officials were noted to have committed alleged abuses and were into some corrupt practices.

She did not name any of the alleged erring barangay officials but said they have been documenting their cases for possible filing of charges before the Department of Interior and Local Government and other concerned agencies.

“There are some barangay officials who have reportedly pawned their MOOE (maintenance and other operating expense) funds. These people should be disciplined and removed from office,” she added. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)