The first time we cancelled the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections in October, 2016, it was largely because of “election fatigue.” The nation had just been through the presidential election of May, 2016, which elected President Duterte. It was felt that it would be best to postpone the Barangay and SK elections at least one year to October 23, 2017.
The year has passed but there is now a new move to postpone the elections anew. This time the reason, as stated by President Duterte, is that up to 40 percent of the nation’s barangay leaders today are involved in drugs. Drug money elected them and drug money may well reelect them. The President proposed that pending a new election, acting barangay chairmen be appointed.
Last Monday, the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms approved a motion to postpone the elections to May, 2018. The committee, however, did not go along with the proposal for appointment of acting barangay leaders. It opted, instead, for letting sitting officials remain in a holdover capacity.
The Constitution indeed includes barangay officials among “elective local officials,” thereby ruling out their appointment. But “holdover” officials are allowed and the House Committee on Suffrage thus proposed that sitting barangay and SK officials hold on to their positions pending the election of new officials in May.
The House committee position now goes to the plenary session of the House of Representatives. What the House finally approves will have to be reconciled with what the Senate approves. Any disagreement will be settled by a Conference Committee.
This early, however, it should be pointed out that the reason President Duterte called for postponement of elections was that many of the sitting officials won their positions because of their drug connections. If Congress approves the proposal for holdover barangay officials, that would mean drug-tainted officials remain in office for seven more months.
During the House committee deliberations, Rep. Antonio Tinio of the party-list Act Teachers said that if many barangay officials are indeed into drugs, they should be charged. Postponing the elections is not the answer, he said. He thus called for the holding of the elections as scheduled.
He has a point worth considering. With the ongoing vigorous anti-drugs campaign of the government and the great support the nation has shown for President Duterte, it is unlikely that any drug pusher or advocate among sitting barangay officials would win this October.