MANILA (UPDATED) - Malacañang on Monday warned that politicians linked to the illegal drug trade may be elected to office if barangay elections scheduled in October 2017 are not postponed.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said concerns over the possible impingement on the public's right to vote must be "carefully weighed" against the possibility of electing "narco-politicians."
"...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," Abella said.
Abella added that postponing the barangay elections would need an amendment of the law for the President to be able to appoint officials.
"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," he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte had said that he wanted to replace barangay officials with appointees because 40 percent of village chiefs are allegedly involved in illegal drugs.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has also expressed optimism that a law will be passed to postpone the barangay elections just as President Duterte said.
"Kaya po iyon...Hindi po [kakapusin sa oras] lalo na kapag cinertify as urgent ng ating Pangulo," he said.
(That can be done. We won't run short of time especially if the President certifies this as urgent.)
BARANGAY POLLS IN 2020?
Speaking to DZMM on Monday, Surigao del Norte 2nd District Rep. Robert "Ace" Barbers said they are proposing that barangay elections be moved from October 2017 to the same month in 2020.
"Sumusuporta ako doon sa sinasabi ni Pangulo na malaking porsyento ng ating mga barangay officials ay involved sa droga. At ang nakakatakot dito, pag sila ay patuloy na manungkulan diyan ay hindi po natin masusugpo ang problema ng droga," he said.
(I support the President's statement that a big percentage of our barangay officials are involved in illegal drugs. What worries me is that if they continue to hold office, we cannot solve the drug menace.)
Barbers said police are now gathering pieces of evidence in preparation for cases to be filed against barangay officials involved in illegal drugs.
Barbers is proposing an amendment to the Local Government Code to give the President the power to appoint barangay officials.
"Maari po natin amendahan ang local government code and in the new law, in the amendment, maari nating bigyan ng authority ang Pangulo na siya ang mag-appoint," he said.
(We can amend the local government code and in the new law, we can give the President the authority to appoint.)