SENATOR Alan Peter Cayetano on Monday said the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) should be given a two-or three-year budget to allow for early preparation for the 2025 elections.
During the plenary debate on Comelec’s proposed 2024 budget, Cayetano said operating on a yearly budget makes it hard for the commission to fully prepare for elections, particularly the 2025 midterm polls which he said will be “very very important for our country.”
According to the independent senator, a yearly budget means the COMELEC cannot prepare for midterm elections two years from now.
“It’s very difficult to finish the budget signed by the President around December (2024), then January (2025) magsa-start [ang effectivity], and then ang election ay Mayo (2025),” according to Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano.
He said in contrast, the COMELEC was able to hold a “generally peaceful and fair” Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) because aside from “political will,” there was ample time to prepare due to the postponements and the fact that it was held in October, many months after the effectivity of the 2023 national budget.
Cayetano said the government must also take into account some possible disruptions.
“Like n’ung pandemic, a simple thing like logistics of how do you get the ballots to Northern Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao became a nightmare,” he said.
According to the COMELEC, a total of P5.96 billion more is needed to procure all materials needed in preparation for the midterm elections in 2025, in which new senators, members of Congress, and local government officials will be elected.
Cayetano urged fellow senators to find an “’innovative but legal way” of providing the commission all it needs this year so that the poll body will not have to wait for January 2025 before it bids out what it needs to hold the polls.
“I wonder if we can consider a two or three-year budget cycle for the Comelec,” he said.
“Meaning, if they need P5.6 billion and we only gave them P3 billion this year, but we’re assuring them that we will give them the P2.6 billion in January 2025, can they bid the whole P5.6 billion para in January 2025 hindi na nila inaalala y’ung admin side ng procurement?” he said.
Senator Imee Marcos, who sponsored Comelec’s budget on the plenary floor, agreed with the independent senator’s observations, saying a three-year budget cycle is more appropriate given that the country has a three-year election cycle.
“The problems that the one-year cycle produces are very evident in the construction of the Comelec building. It’s grossly inefficient,” Sen. Imee Marcos said.
Cayetano said he is looking forward to the suggestion being explored during the national budget’s bicameral conference to be held in the last week of November.