The Palace has proposed a quick fix to the barangay election conundrum as a result of Rody’s desire to appoint rather than elect the most frontline government executive who are the barangay chiefs.
Rody wants the elections scheduled in October for barangay officials stopped that he said would be crucial to his crusade to eradicate the drugs menace, since he estimated that more than 40 percent of barangay officials have links to narcotics syndicates.
Since the law fixed the elections, Congress is now looking to work around to grant Rody’s wish but Senate President Koko Pimentel said a caucus among the senators, indicated that the Local Government’s Code if not the Constitution will have to be amended to allow the appointment of barangay officials.
Some of the senators like Panfilo Lacson said that it should be up for the people to decide in October who among the officials fall into the category of being contaminated by drugs as Rody had termed it saying that there already had been several election postponements.
The Palace presented a more palatable alternative for Rody to purge the barangay system of the narcotics contamination which is for Congress to pass a law to postpone the October elections and for Rody to name officers-in-charge for the country’s 42,036 barangays.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Mr. Duterte could fill the vacancies once a new law postponing the barangay elections is passed.
“The passage of a new law postponing the barangay elections will make all barangay positions vacant. Therefore, according to the Administrative Code of the Philippines, it is within the powers of the President to fill up declared vacant positions,” Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said.
Of course, the yellow Liberal Party (LP) is opposing Rody’s call as they insisted the public has the right to choose the officials that they deal with almost daily.
The yellow senators said appointing the barangay officials will only perpetuate patronage politics, apparently fearing that Rody wanted to fill up the barangays with his allies in preparation for the coming national elections.
The LP apparently fears that Rody might be trying to do more than bribe the barangay officials similar to what the party did in futility in the previous elections when billions were poured through the so-called Bottom-Up Budgeting scheme.
The Palace, however, said the right to vote should be placed side by side with the illegal drugs problem.
Abella said the people’s right to vote must be carefully weighed against the possibility that a number of barangay officials with links to the illegal drug trade may unwittingly be elected into office, given the sad state of patronage in local politics.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said a bill is on its way to seek the postponement of the October barangay polls.
It would be no easy task for Rody to fill up with appointees all the barangay posts that will be vacated but his determination to cleanse the communities of the drugs network is giving the impetus for the proposal.
Besides, removing the barangay officials for now will give Rody a clean slate to implement basic reforms for the communities without the fear that narcotics syndicates which are deeply entrenched in government would not interfere in the changes that he will introduce.
Thus, the overhaul of the barangay system is key to the success of the war on drugs and may involve half of the effort needed to complete Rody’s task.
The appointment of OICs may give Rody the means to cleanse the barangays of the drug problem since under the plan to appoint officials, the recommending bodies will include civic and religious groups.
Of course, this is still not a foolproof way of cleaning up all the barangays but it is a start since it will provide Rody a clean slate in the basic communities.
A maneuver to instill patronage is possible but many are willing to take Rody’s word that the move is needed for the sake of making communities safe.