Issue of October 8, 2017
     
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Stalled polls beneficial to barangay merger bid
by Jane B. Cadalig

The postponement of the Oct. 23 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections will be beneficial for Baguio City.

Mayor Mauricio Domogan said the postponement will be advantageous for Baguio in terms of its quest to reduce its 128 barangays through merger.

“The postponement of the barangay and SK elections will give us enough time to work on the merger of the barangays in Baguio. Hopefully, when the next barangay election is held, it will now be based on the merged barangays,” Domogan said.

He said the merger of barangays aims to improve the status of the smallest political units in the bureaucracy in terms of their finance administration and governance.

The number of recognized barangays in Baguio is 128, which is aimed to be reduced to around 42 if the merger materialized.

Among other advantages, the merger aims to benefit barangays in terms of increased shared in the internal revenue allotment, improved delivery of basic services, and guaranteed salary for barangay officials.

Under the provisions of Republic Act 7160 or the Local government Code, a barangay must have a minimum of 5,000 inhabitants and that barangay officials must be compensated through the salary grade level pursuant to the levels fixed by law.

But some barangays in Baguio have less than the minimum inhabitants while several barangays such as Irisan have more than 15,000 inhabitants.

Baguio City Elections Officer John Paul Martin said the Commission on Elections was all set for this year’s polls but suspended all its activities after President Rodrigo Duterte signed Republic Act 10952, the law that postpones the scheduled Oct. 23 barangay and SK elections and resets the conduct of the same in May 14, 2018.

He said the Comelec is now focusing on the registration of voters for the May polls. The registration will include the enlistment of new voters, re-activation, transfer, and correction of voters’ information.

“We now have to move on to the next preparation, which is the voters’ registration. Hopefully, we could start it in November,” he said.

Martin added he will meet with the National Youth Commission next week for a multi-sectoral discussion on how to persuade more youth to participate in next year’s political exercise.

Before Duterte’s signing of the bill that sought to postpone this year’s polls, Martin said the Comelec has already prepared the official ballots and other election-related documents.

The agency has also conducted command conferences with law enforcement agencies that led to the implementation of the gun ban and establishment of checkpoints, but all these have been lifted.

Under the law, incumbent village officials will remain in office in a hold over capacity until their constituents shall have chosen their successors in May next year.

The last barangay polls were held in October 2013.

The President called for the postponement of this year’s elections, on claims that barangay officials involved in illegal drugs will use their influence to stay in power.


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