EDITORIAL — Finally, election day
After four vote postponements that effectively resulted in the extension of terms by two years followed by an extension of a year and a half for the winners in 2018, the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections will finally push through today. The BSKE is being held after the Supreme Court threw out on Oct. 24 a motion for reconsideration filed by the Office of the Solicitor General, seeking to reverse the SC ruling that declared Republic Act 11935 unconstitutional.
RA 11935, signed by President Marcos on Oct. 10 last year, sought to postpone the BSKE yet again, effectively giving incumbent village and youth council officials another one-year extension of their terms, after the six-month extension from the original vote schedule in May 2022.
Why Congress and Malacañang were falling all over themselves to reward BSK officials with term extensions in an election year is anybody’s guess. The official reason given was that it would allow the realignment of the P8.4 billion already allocated under the 2022 General Appropriations Act for the BSKE to post-pandemic recovery programs. The Commission on Elections, however, pointed out that the postponement would in fact cost taxpayers an additional P10 billion, considering the projected growth in the number of voters within a year and the wasted preparations for the 2022 vote.
Another reason given by the proponents was to allow the nation to “heal” from the divisiveness of the May 2022 vote – a reason that the SC ruling described as “superficial or farcical.” If this reason is allowed, every BSKE could be postponed.
Fortunately, the SC refused to be swayed by the self-serving excuses cited in RA 11935. In its landmark ruling peppered with the word “unconstitutional,” the high tribunal put an end to vote postponements, except in case of a public emergency or to protect the right of suffrage.
Rodrigo Duterte started the unconstitutional practice with the whimsical postponement of the BSKE in October 2016 to October 2017, and then again to October 2018. The postponement became an ugly habit that continued when Duterte again reset the May 2020 BSKE to May 2022, and then for yet another six months, to December 2022.