House agrees to postpone brgy elections to next year
Village officials may have to stay in their seats a little longer.
The members of the House of Representatives agreed to postpone the barangay elections for another seven months to May 2018.
Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said lawmakers reached a consensus during a Monday afternoon caucus to synchronize the barangay elections with the plebiscite for Charter change and the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.
If the measures would not be ready by May, he added, the elections for the country’s smallest political units might be pushed back again.
Representatives Alfredo Abelardo Benitez of Negros Occidental and Stephen Panuano of Abang Lingkod Party-list said the more than 200 congressmen who attended the caucus agreed that the incumbent village officials be retained in a hold-over capacity.
The decision of the House must be concurred by the Senate before it would become final although no strong opposition on the proposal was expected from the Upper Chamber.
When reached for comment, Councilor Philip Zafra, president of Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) in Cebu City, said the decision of the House must be viewed as a challenge for all barangay officials in the city.
“I can’t say that we will benefit from this. Instead, this is another challenge for us to work more, to do more and to make sure that their mandate that has been extended by law will not be put to waste,” he said.
Zafra said that he would leave it up to the congressmen and the senators to decide on the issue.
The barangay officials were elected in October 2013, but they had remained in their positions after the October 2016 elections were postponed to October 2017.
The Commission on Elections recently issued statements urging Congress to decide soon if the elections should be postponed to avoid wasting efforts in preparing for the October 2017 polls.
President Duterte first issued the call for Congress to postpone the elections again. At the time, he cited the alleged influence of drug money as a reason.
Rep. Sherwin Tugna, who chairs the suffrage and electoral reforms committee, said the House continues to keep the President’s justification in mind, and the postponement was precisely meant to prevent more narco-politicians from controlling the barangays.
“We are still citing it. … One of the the purposes of postponement is to prevent narco-politicians (from) using their money to support the election of those non-incumbent who are involved in drugs and the reelection of those who are involved in drugs,” said Tugna, representative of the party-list group, Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption (Cibac).
But the congressmen turned down the proposal of President Duterte to just appoint the barangay officials.
Fariñas said House members agreed to retain the incumbent village officials in a holdover capacity instead of an earlier proposal by dangerous drugs committee chair Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers to empower President Rodrigo Duterte to appoint officers in charge.
Tugna said the House would be hitting two birds with one stone in moving to postpone the barangay polls to next year.
“That way, we will be hitting two birds with one stone. Meaning, through BBL, we can help achieve peace in Mindanao, and by having the plebiscite of the BBL during May 2017 barangay elections, we will save public money,” Tugna said.
Anakpawis Party-list Rep. Ariel Casilao of the militant Makabayan bloc, however, told reporters that his group wants to push through with the scheduled elections in October “in accordance to a democratic exercise of our people.”
Rep. Rodrigo Abellanosa of Cebu City South District was also opposed to the postponement.
“Postponing it (barangay elections) again only promotes a feeble-minded image of Congress, delays the people’s clamor for change of leadership in the grassroots, and disenfranchises the youth from being represented in governance,” he said in a text message.
Abellanosa described the decision of the “super majority” to postpone the elections as “overwhelming.”
Zafra agreed on the decision to retain the current barangay officials in a hold-over capacity.
He said the earlier proposal to just appoint barangay officials would have problems since the Constitution dictates that positions in the barangays should be elected and not appointed.
But Zafra said it would not matter to them whether the elections pushed through or not.
“We are ready with the elections whether this year, next year or any year. We are ready to run and seek reelection,” he said.