Comelec cuts addt'l BSKE funding request to ₱2.7B

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 18) — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has agreed to reduce its proposed additional funding for barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections (BSKE) from ₱10 billion to as low as ₱2.7 billion next year.

Comelec Chair George Garcia told CNN Philippines' The Source on Tuesday that they had to make some adjustments after Senate electoral reforms committee chair Imee Marcos denounced their supposedly "outrageous demand" amid insufficient documents that led to the postponement of their budget hearing on Monday.

READ: ‘Outrageous demand’: Imee Marcos rejects addt’l ₱10B funding for BSKE, cancels Comelec budget hearing

He said that initially, they made a counter offer of ₱4 billion, setting aside projected expenses for activities and procurement of some paraphernalia.

"Yesterday, we offered an additional ₱4-billion budget instead of ₱10 billion. We said ‘we will not proceed with this activity, we will not procure this one,'" Garcia said, but noted that the senator still required them to submit other documents.

"As of later last night, we submitted a ₱2.7-billion additional budget for barangay and SK elections. Ang dami na po naming tinanggal na items (We already removed so many items)," he said.

Garcia said their computation is dependent on the number of voters that they will have to accommodate for registration from November this year to May 2023, since President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. already signed into law a measure moving the BSKE to October next year.

READ: Marcos signs law moving barangay, SK polls to October 2023 

"Our original computation was 5 to 7 million (new voters). Of course, we lowered the estimate kasi baka napakataas ng aming ambisyon....In the ₱10-billion additional amount, we were hoping to have 239,000 precincts. But as of yesterday we lowered that to 226,000 to 228,000," Garcia said. "That will practically lessen the expense."

On Monday, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal filed a petition before the Supreme Court (SC) seeking to nullify the postponement of the barangay elections, noting that Congress only has the power to fix the term but not to extend the term and tenure of office of barangay officials.

Garcia said all these uncertainties surrounding the BSKE will definitely affect the "fullness of the quality of our preparations," but they will still have to be ready regardless of the High Court's decision.

He said the commission continues to coordinate with suppliers and other stakeholders for their preparations. If the SC agrees to issue a temporary restraining order and/or status quo order on the newly-signed law, the Comelec will have to proceed with the originally scheduled December 5 polls.

Should the postponement be upheld, Garcia said the Comelec still has a ₱7.5 billion remaining budget that has already been allocated for the conduct of the BSKE next year. He added that the additional fund request can be the subject of a supplemental appropriation.