An administration lawmaker has formally sought the postponement of the October barangay (village) and youth polls to October 2020 to allow President Rodrigo Duterte to appoint caretakers.
Representative Robert “Ace” Barbers of Surigao del Norte made the proposal under House Bill 5359, arguing that incumbent officials must be terminated to give way to a set of untainted officers in charge to be appointed by the President.
Congress had postponed the October 2016 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (youth council) polls to this year, a move supposed to cleanse the more than 42,000 barangays of leaders involved in illegal drugs. As a result, barangay officials retained their posts for another year.
Barbers claimed village officials did nothing to eliminate drugs during the one-year period.
“Incumbent officials enjoyed an extended term but failed to address the drug problem that our President has been seeking to exterminate since Day 1,” Barbers said. “The smartest move would be to delay the elections and to appoint incorruptible officers in charge.”
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte said there would be enough time to pass the law postponing the polls and allowing Duterte to appoint around 300,000 barangay officials.
Congress is on a Lenten break and will resume sessions on May 2.
“We have time to approve the bill postponing the barangay polls, especially when the President certifies the bill as urgent,” Alvarez said in a separate interview.
A bill certified as urgent by the President can be approved on second and third readings on the same day.
“The President’s objective is valid,” Alvarez said.
Duterte has said that in appointing officers in charge, he would accept nominations from the Catholic Church,
Islamic leaders as well as other religious and people’s organizations.
Malacañang on Monday backed the bill seeking to postpone the barangay elections, as it warned that politicians linked to the illegal drug trade could be elected to office if polls push through.
In a statement, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said concerns over the possible impingement on the public’s right to vote must be “carefully weighed” against the possibility of electing “narco-politicians.”
“Moving the schedule of the barangay elections, which is scheduled October this year, needs an amendment of the law. Without this new law, barangay elections will push through,” he said.
“The passage of a new law postponing the barangay elections will make all barangay positions vacant.
Therefore, according to the Administrative Code of the Philippines, it is within the powers of the President to fill up declared vacant positions,” Abella added.
Some senators from the majority bloc however have expressed reservations over the plan to again postpone village polls, saying it was time to allow barangays to elect a new set of officials.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, in a text message, said he was not inclined to support another postponement because there have been too many postponements.
“I believe it’s time we allow the 42,036 barangays to elect their new village leaders or give those who deserve their vote of confidence to continue serving them,” the senator said.
Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito is also hesitant, saying there should be a clear justification for any deferment.
WITH A REPORT FROM CATHERINE S. VALENTE AND JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA