July 21, 2024

■  Rimaliza A. Opiña 

The five-year hiatus for the election of grassroots officials was not enough to motivate the electorate to cast their votes as the turnout during the 2023 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections showed a low turnout of voters in many areas in the country.

In Baguio alone, only about half of the total registered number of voters in both the barangay and SK exercised their right of suffrage in BSKE on Oct. 30.

City Election Officer John Paul Martin saw three major reasons why there was a low turnout of voters: the suspension of work prior to the Nov. 1 regular holiday, too many or too little to choose from the roster of candidates; and a general disinterest to participate in the election.

Of the 169,711 voters, Comelec data showed that only 89,962 cast their votes for the barangay elections, while of the 46,752 registered voters for SK, only 23,152 cast their votes.

Martin said the six-day holiday has resulted in the public choosing to go on vacation instead of casting their vote.

“In Baguio alone, kita naman na ang daming nag-akyatang turista at marami ring taga-Baguio ang lumabas din,” Martin said, echoing that Comelec was also expecting a higher turnout because of Congress’ suspension of the BSKE, but which turned out differently.

The lack of choi-ces or too many candidates to choose from could also be a factor.

Martin said some voters chose to abstain because in some barangays, the incumbents are the same candidates, while other barangays have too many candidates to choose from, such as in Irisan.

The lack of inte-rest among voters is another factor, Martin added.

“Nasa mga botante din. Ayaw lang talaga. Ayaw nila magsakripisyo,” the election officer said, lamenting that voters chose to use all their time on holiday and not spare a few minutes to go to the precincts.

Despite the dismal turnout, Martin said sees a ray of hope in the 2025 BSKE.

“It’s the timing. But I do not see it that way in 2025 since the election will be in December. There are no holidays at that time,” Martin said reminding that the 2023 elections was set on October to comply with schedule set by Congress when it postponed the election, which was originally set on Dec. 5, 2022 by the Comelec.

In June this year, the SC declared as unconstitutional the law which postponed the holding of the BSKE.

The SC also declared that the BSKE scheduled for October 2023 shall proceed. However, it stressed that the term of office of the sitting BSK officials shall be deemed to have ended on Dec. 31, 2022.

The SC further ruled that the succeeding BSKE shall be held on the first Monday of December 2025 and every three years thereafter.