If he had his way, President Rodrigo Duterte will do away with the barangay (village) elections and declare all positions vacant.
The President on Thursday bared his plan to appoint barangay officials if Congress heeds his proposal to reset the elections scheduled in October and declare all village positions vacant.
In a news conference upon his arrival from his official trip to Thailand, Duterte stressed that incumbent barangay officials, 40 percent of whom were allegedly involved in illegal drugs, may take advantage of the elections this year.
“I told them, do not commit the mistake of calling for an elections now. Because narco-politics has entered into the mainstream of Philippine politics. Either we kill them first because if we don’t, they will be elected again,” Duterte told reporters.
“The local elections is just around the corner. If barangay officials are there, and they can influence the electorate, it’s difficult. That’s why I said not now,” he added.
Duterte admitted that pursuing his proposal will be “quite messy” because incumbent barangay officials will strongly oppose it.
But the President said he is willing to compromise with Church leaders and other groups if “they have no connections with rebels and are not into drugs.”
“We are looking for a way to just appoint the barangay captains but the mechanism of how to go about it, select them… it’s always the President who has the power to appoint. But I’m going to compromise with the Church and everybody. They can nominate three citizens,” Duterte said.
“If the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the police and the military say that they (nominees) have no connections with the rebels, that’s one. Second is that they are not into drugs, and third is that they are not really the leaders of politicians. If you can have that least, I would be happy,” he added.
Duterte said he would accept nominations from the Catholic Church, Islam leaders, religious denominations and other organizations.
“It’s not actually interference. It’s an election. This would not be construed as interference from the Church. And the Lions or everybody else, list down those who are accredited, they can nominate. So we can do away with shady characters,” the President said, obviously referring to the Lions Club, an international non-political service group.
“But if you hold the elections now and those who are in the (drug) list win, 40 percent of the total barangay captains are into drugs, that’s my problem. So voters, be sure to elect (the right ones), because I do not have time to kill them (officials involved in drugs) all,” he added.
Duterte signed on October 18, 2016 a law postponing the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections set on October 31 last year. It was reset to the 4th Monday of October this year.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said the barangay election can be postponed again if congress passes a law.
However, Comelec Chairman Juan Andres Bautista noted that the Constitution needs to be amended before the President can declared all positions vacant.
“We are ready to proceed with the elections on October, but if the President and congress decide against it, we will support it,” Bautista said.
He added that postponing the barangay and SK elections is easy because it only needs an act of congress and the approval of the President. Amending the Constitution will take a longer process.
Bautista said the poll body will continue with the registration of voters among other preparations for the coming twin polls.
WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL