Comelec needs P857 million for Bangsamoro plebiscite

The two expected referendums to be held by the Commission on Election (Comelec) next year remain unfunded for now.

In an ambush interview, Comelec chairman Sheriff Abas said they still have to raise the P857 million that is needed for the holding of the plebiscite for the enforcement of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) on Jan. 21, 2019.

He said the Department of Budget of Management (DBM) has advised them to use their savings from previous elections for the said referendum.

“But the problem is the savings they were referring to is already depleted…we will be informing them about our position on this,” the poll chief said after their budget deliberation in the plenary of the House of Representatives yesterday.

The Comelec said it is now eyeing the existing contingency fund of the President for the BOL referendum.

“The worst case scenario, we will use our item (savings cited by DOF)  for the plebiscite, then also tap the contingency plan of the President,” Abas explained.

The result of the BOL referendum will determine the areas to be included in the soon-to be established Bangamoro Autonomous Region (BAR).

Likewise, Abas also said they have provision in their 2019 budget for the planned referendum for the charter change next year.

“To be honest, we will need  P6 to P8 billion for that, but we were not able to include it our line budget [for 2019] so we will have no source for it,” Abas admitted.

Comelec earlier said they are still waiting for the enabling law for said referendum before they could request for funding for it.

Congress has yet to pass the said law for this.

Abas said they will be relying on the provision of the new law to get the necessary budget for the charter change plebiscite.

The outcome of the referendum will show if the public will approve the new charter drafted by Congress.

During its budget deliberation at the Lower House yesterday, Comelec got commitment from some lawmakers to raise its DBM-approved budget.

The poll body was asking for P15.9 billion  budget, but Lanao del Norte 1st district Rep. Mohammad Kahalid Q. Dimaporo said DBM only granted P6 billion.

Dimaporo was the sponsor of the 2019 budget proposal of Comelec.

Comelec said it may be forced cut cost resulting to less than optimal holding of the elections if its budget will not be adjusted to at least P8 billion next year.

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