President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent pronouncement that he wants to cancel this year’s barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections in order to stomp the drug dealers can be viewed in different ways, not least of which is that it cannot be done without a law from Congress.
He made his wish known during a recent gathering of councilors around the country and while his statements carry much weight especially among his allies in Congress, it’s a question of whether they can muster enough support for his proposal.
President Duterte sweetened the deal by proposing that the mayors and governors appoint their barangay officials. By doing this, he is trying to curtail the election process and denying Filipinos the right to choose their own barangay officials, never mind if they hardly vote for them at all.
While the illegal drug menace certainly starts at the grassroots or community level, the solution doesn’t lie on retaining incumbent barangay officials who may or may not be dealing with drug lords and dealers.
In every turn, President Duterte makes a show of documents and reports pertaining to the extensive drug network in the country, and he believes rightly that eliminating the drug menace starts at the barangay level.
But the list unconfirmed or not is shown to the public, the Filipinos are in the dark as to who they are and what the Duterte administration will do to those barangay officials who do deal in drugs.
Would they be eliminated one by one, pressured into revealing their drug contacts and allowed to retain their posts—thereby earning in the process their loyalty to the administration—or forced into early retirement?
The variables are many but it all lies in allowing the President to retain the status quo so to speak until he knows what to do with them. While local officials and especially incumbent barangay officials have no problem with the President’s desire, not everyone is supportive.
Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña, for one, wants the SK-barangay elections to push through so he can have a better control of the barangays that are in Team Rama’s camp.
While the mayor may win the 2019 elections with or without the support of barangay leaders, it would certainly be a lot easier if more of them were in his corner.
As to whether his proposal to cancel the SK-barangay elections is supported by the public is anyone’s guess. The Commission on Elections (Comelec) already got its wish to suspend the SK-barangay elections last year owing to the strain on resources and personnel to stage last year’s national elections.
Until Congress pulls the plug by enacting a law or amendment to the existing law, the elections will have to push through.