MANILA - The appointment of barangay officials, as proposed by President Rodrigo Duterte, is unconstitutional and would violate the local officials' right to security of tenure, an election lawyer said Monday.
Lawyer Romulo Macalintal cited Section 8, Article 10 of the Philippine Constitution, which indicates the general provisions on local government as basis. The Constitution recognizes the election of local officials, including those in the barangay level.
"Sila ay nasa same category ng mga governors at mayors. In other words, ang mayors, governors at barangay officials sa ilalim ng Saligang Batas ay elective local officials kaya sila ay maaari lamang mailuklok sa pamamagitan ng halalan," Macalintal said.
"Ang anumang move na magsasabing pwede ma-appoint ang barangay officials ay para mo na ring sinasabi na pwede na ring mag-appoint ng governor o ang mga mayors at councilors. 'Yan ay isang bagay na hindi magagawa sapagkat ang kailangan dito ay amyendahan mo ang Saligang Batas."
Instead, Macalintal said the President may ask Congress to amend the Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991, specifying that only the barangay chairman would be elected. The rest of the barangay officials such as barangay kagawad, would be appointed.
The existing Local Government Code mandates the election of a punong Barangay and seven barangay councilors.
"Para madali ang monitoring ng barangay officials, ay mag-elect ng punong barangay at iabolish na ang barangay kagawad sapagkat kung isasama mo ang kagawad, you are talking of 320,000 na punong barangay at kagawad. Dyan nahihirapan ang Pangulo sa pagdetermine sino talaga ang involved sa drugs."
"Kung punong barangay lang ang ie-elect madali ang monitoring. Dyan hindi na kailangan baguhin ang batas. Ang babaguhin lang ay provision sa Local Government Code."
Macalintal also noted that the government could save up to P34.8 billion thru the abolition of barangay council position, as each of the 294, 715 barangay councilors receive at least P10,000 worth of monthly salary.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez acknowledged the need to amend the Local Government Code. He would also propose for the appointment of a punong barangay.
"Only the appointment of barangay captain, no more kagawads. That way, the government can save a lot and increase the pay of barangay health workers, tanods and day care worker," Alvarez said in a text message.
Senator JV Ejercito agreed with the President's proposal, but insisted the need for "backable data to push for an amendment."
"Kung ganun ka-alarming, the data would be able to back up. We can justify the amendment so they can give the President the power to appoint," Ejercito said.
Congressman Sherwin Tugna, chairman of the Committee of Suffrage and Electoral Reforms and Committee of Local Government, said his committees have yet to "thoroughly deliberate the reasons and the concrete basis for the bill on postponement and appointment."
Meanwhile, the Department of the Interior and Local Government said the agency has yet to discuss the legal basis of the postponement of barangay elections.