Study proposed barangay, SK polls postponement

With the fate of the 2022 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections still hanging in a balance, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go urged the national government to study carefully the proposals seeking to postpone the polls.

The senator stressed that authorities should act in the best interest of the country but said that he will support any decision the Executive branch makes regarding the elections which is tentatively set in December this year.

Go also asked the government to be ready and prepared for the barangay and SK elections whenever they would take place to ensure the integrity of the results.

On Tuesday, the House Suffrage and Electoral Reforms Committee voted to postpone the 2022 barangay and SK elections to 2023 and among the reasons cited for the postponement of the elections include allocating the funds for the polls to the Covid-19 response instead, giving teachers time to rest and recover following the recent national elections, and avoiding two “divisive” polls in a year.

Meanwhile, the lawmaker reaffirmed the need to empower barangays as the nation’s primary unit of governance as he vowed to continue pushing for measures that would provide barangay officials more opportunities to develop their capabilities as well as provide regular pay and other benefits.

Go maintained that barangay officials should get comparable benefits to those provided to other government employees in recognition of their efforts to serve their constituents. This led him to refile Senate Bill 197, which would provide for a Magna Carta for Barangays.

“We all know that the barangay and its officials are the immediate provider of frontline services to our fellow countrymen. And it is because of this reason that we have to further improve the barangays and address the woes of our barangay officials,” Go said.

Under SB 197, barangay officials will be treated as regular government employees. The Punong Barangay, members of the Sangguniang Barangay, the Sangguniang Kabataan chairperson, the barangay secretary and barangay treasurer will be entitled to salaries, emoluments, allowances such as hazard pay, representation and transportation allowance, 13th month pay and other benefits that regular government employees enjoy.

All barangays will enjoy basic priorities, such as construction of at least a facility for drawing drinking water for every 1,000 residents; public transportation by asking government agencies to require public utility companies to provide minimum means of transportation; and at least a kindergarten, an elementary school for every barangay, and a high school for every five kilometers from the barangay center; a health center and a barangay hall.

Under the proposed measure, the barangays’ share from various taxes shall also be directly released to them without need for further action. All public funds from the National Treasury for the maintenance of barangay roads and bridges and similar construction works shall also be transferred to the barangays’ general fund.

The senator also filed SB 427 which mandates the provision of allowances and incentives to barangay health workers. A monthly allowance of P3,000 will be provided to all barangay health workers. They will also be entitled to security of tenure and other benefits and privileges.

The bill mandates the appointment of at least two BHWs per barangay. More may be appointed based on the number of households in the barangay and upon the recommendation of the Department of Health as long as the number of BHWs will not exceed 1 percent of the population of the barangay.

Other benefits and privileges enumerated in the bill include leave benefits, Civil Service Eligibility, and Christmas bonus, among others. BHWs will also be entitled to GSIS, PhilHealth and Pag-IBIG benefits.

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