The October 2017 barangay and SK elections could be moved to May 2018, as what had been decided during the all-party caucus held by the House of Representatives last Monday.
Rep. Sherwin Tugna told The Chronicle that the all-party caucus tackled the five pending bills and one resolution calling for the postponement of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections.
These have been filed and are pending before the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms which Tugna chairs.
It was decided at the caucus on Monday afternoon to move the barangay and SK elections originally scheduled on October 23 this year to May next year.
“The main reason in favor of the postponement raised during the meeting was to be in sync and to support the administration’s war on drugs,” according to Tugna.
He further cited the public statements of President Rodrigo Duterte, calling for the “postponement of elections so the elections and barangay politics will not interfere with the ongoing fight to eradicate illegal drugs at the barangay level”.
“Postponing the elections would prevent the election of local personalities linked to drug operations.
He added that it would also give ample time for incumbent barangay officials to address and curb the drug-problem of our country
“Sa huli, ang pagpapaliban ng halalan sa barangay sa Mayo 2018 ay makakabuti sa ating bansa dahil mapagtutuunan ng mga barangay officials, DILG at ilan pang ahensya ng gobyerno ang pagpuksa sa illegal na droga sa kani-kanilang mga barangay, upang tayo ay magkaroon ng mas ligtas at mapayapang pamayanan,” Tugna added.
He explained that by moving the local elections to May 2018, “we are able to balance the our nation’s fight against illegal drugs and the people’s right to exercise their right to participate in the selection of their local leaders”.
“We adhere to the principles of democracy as enshrined in our Constitution. We recognize that sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them. Thus, we give utmost importance to our democratic right to select our leaders, especially at the barangay level, the smallest unit of government in the nation,” according to Tugna.
For the meantime, Provincial Election Supervisor Eliseo Labaria said they still proceeded with preparations for the October 23 barangay elections until the bills proposing its postponement becomes a law.
The Senate, however, had already passed the bill proposing the barangay elections postponement on third reading.
Labaria also clarified that the preparations for the synchronized barangay and SK elections will not be affected by the controversy that Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista is facing.
Labaria even said the Comelec has been used to controversies and it is not new to them.
He added that the Comelec chairman is just one of the seven commissioners.
Their preparations have nothing to do with the personal life of the highest Comelec official, Labaria said as he expressed that Bautista can best handle the controversy.
He said the Comelec continued with the usual process of printing the lists of voters for the October elections.
Bautista’s wife, Patricia Paz, accused the Comelec chairman of having unexplained wealth that could be abour P1 Billion.
These properties and wealth were not declared in her husband’s Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Networth (SALN) for last year, according to Patricia Paz Bautista.
On the other hand, Senator Vicente Sotto III introduced the bill upon the concern of President Rodrigo Duterte that narco-politicians might dominate the campaign trail.
Surigao del Norte Representative Robert Ace Barbers also filed a similar bill seeking to “defer the barangay and SK elections until May 2020”.
Duterte earlier made a public statement about the involvement of around 40 percent of the barangay captains nationwide in illegal drugs.
The same reason was used in postponing last year’s supposed barangay and SK elections.
Duterte even hinted that he might just appoint barangay officials this time to wipe out narco-politicians from the villages.
For his part, Eastern Samar Representative Ben Evardone filed House Bill 6125, seeking to amend Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code to allow the appointment of barangay and SK officials instead of being elected to save the government from the high cost of elections and “ to avoid election-related violence”.
In his bill, Evardone proposed that “municipal and city mayors be given the power to appoint the barangay chief and Sanggunian members”.
To undertake such process, Evardone proposed that the mayor chooses “from the nominated candidates and will seek the concurrence of the Sangguniang Bayan or Sangguniang Panlungsod”.
The mayor shall make the appointments within 30 days from assumption into office.
“Unless sooner removed or suspended for cause provided under the Local Government Code and applicable existing laws, all incumbent barangay officials shall remain in office until their successors shall have been appointed pursuant to the Act within 60 days from July 1, 2019,” as Evardone placed in HB 6125 which is pending at the Committee on Local Government of the House of Representatives.
Without the postponement of the barangay elections which will allow the President to appoint barangay captains, and the amendment to the Local Government Code being passed into law, the elections in October will push through, Labaria concluded.