The Duterte administration has only until August this year to enact and approve a law that will suspend this year’s barangay elections for an undetermined period and allow the President to appoint barangay officials, but this early, it has raised a lot of critical questions on its constitutionality and its chief motive.
Sure, President Rodrigo Duterte claims that he needs to suspend the barangay elections in order to stave off plans by the drug syndicates to fund candidates they can use to expand their network.
But does that require canceling constitutionally mandated elections even if it’s on the barangay level which most Filipinos unfortunately don’t consider as important as the local and national elections?
Retired judge Meinrado Paredes even went so far as to consider the plan to allow President Duterte to appoint barangay officials a “slide down to dictatorship” especially if it was not the people’ s will to do so.
We have to note that the appointment of these officials will be done on a nationwide basis. That would give the President unprecedented control over barangays whose leaders would be beholden to him and not to the communities that they are supposed to serve.
Granting that Duterte’s allies in Congress expedite the passage of the bill authorizing him to do so, we question whether it’s worth sacrificing a person’s right to choose their own officials even at the grassroots level.
While the President’s allies are publicly supporting a bill by Rep. Robert Ace Barbers of Surigao del Norte to postpone the barangay and SK elections to 2020 — which also happens to be President Duterte’s final year in office unless Congress makes good on its goal to federalize the national government — local officials in Cebu are not too keen about it.
Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña for one is opposed to the move; and we can see why, considering that one of his pet peeves, Presidential Assistant to the Visayas Michael Dino, isn’t above commenting on Cebu City’s political developments (the suspension of Barangay Ermita officials for one) despite previous pronouncements that he has bigger things to do in the Visayas.
How the President will proceed with the selection process remains unclear at this point. Again, citing the case of the Barangay Ermita officials, how can the President’s appointees be held accountable if one of them abuses his/her post?
Will the President defend them like he publicly defended those cops accused of killing Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. or transfer them to other barangays like he did with those cops accused of murdering a South Korean businessman?
There’s still plenty of time by then, but knowing the President’s bullheaded determination to see and do things his way, nothing short of a miracle is needed by opponents to stop his plan to appoint barangay officials like deputies in his war on illegal drugs.
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