Senators cool to Duterte's wish to postpone village polls

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 27 2017 04:56 PM

Panfilo Lacson, JV Ejercito and Koko Pimentel. Composite

MANILA – Some of President Rodrigo Duterte's allies are cool to the chief executive’s plan to again postpone this year’s barangay polls and appoint village officials instead.

Duterte earlier said he would seek the postponement of the barangay polls since those who are likely to win have drug connections. He instead wants to appoint officials with the help of the church and other sectors.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, however, said he is not inclined to support yet another postponement of barangay elections.

"There's too many postponements already and I believe it's time we should allow the 42,036 barangays to elect their new village leaders or give those who deserve their vote of confidence to continue serving them," Lacson said in a statement.

Senator JV Ejercito, another Duterte ally, meanwhile took to Twitter to give his own take on the proposed postponement of the polls.

“I have apprehensions on postponing barangay elections as to the legal basis. We just need to clarify justification on the said postponement,” he said.

“Being a former mayor myself, I understand where President Duterte's proposal to postpone barangay elections [is coming from], to rid out drug personalities.”

LGU CODE AUTHOR NIXES APPOINTMENT OF BARANGAY EXECS

Senate President Aquilino Koko Pimentel III earlier said a law is needed to postpone this year’s elections.

“Kailangan ng batas. Batas lang kasi nasa Constitution din po natin na the term of office of barangay officials shall be provided by law. Yun lang po yung local official na yung term ay batas ang nag-go-govern sa term,” Pimentel had said.

Even Pimentel’s father, former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr., who also authored the Local Government Code, said appointing the officials would violate the the purpose of the law.

"There are many circumstances na maka-apekto doon sa magandang objective bakit hindi matutuloy, pero hindi naman ibig sabihin the solution is appointment. I don’t think so," the elder Pimentel said.

While the Senate President has yet to make a commitment on the passage of a law postponing this year’s polls, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said the House of Representatives would be able to fulfill Duterte’s wishes.

Senate Committee on Local Government chairman Sonny Angara shares the Pimentel father-and-son’s view.

"Ang unang kwestyon din dyan ay, legally feasible ba sa ngayon? Sa tingin ko kasi kelangan amyendahan di lamang ang election law kundi ang Local Government Code na siyang mga ligal na basehan ng pag-elect ng mga baranggay officials," Angara said in a statement.

He also said consultations should be held on the matter. "Bilang Local Government Committee chair, sisiguraduhin natin ang pagkakaroon ng malawakang konsultasyon ukol sa isyu na ito," Angara said.

MINORITY SLAMS PROPOSAL

Members of the minority have slammed the proposal, saying it would take away the power of the electorate.

Senator Francis Pangilinan, president of the Liberal Party, earlier said Duterte’s proposal to postpone the polls and instead appoint village officials “encroaches dangerously into authoritarian ideologies reminiscent of those harbored and exemplified by the former dictator Ferdinand Marcos."

Senator Leila de Lima, one of the fiercest critics of the president, said appointing barangay officials goes against the idea of barangays being non-partisan government units.

"Appointing barangay officials, instead of electing them, goes against the principles of shielding them from partisan politics. That is one of the reasons why barangay elections are held separately from national and local elections,” De Lima said.

De Lima added the right to due process of barangay officials who would be removed from their posts and not get reappointed may be violated by the proposal.

"Those who would be removed and not reappointed may have that stigma of being involved in drugs. They have every right for a chance to clear their name before being removed from office," she said.

Senator Bam Aquino, another LP member, said electing officials is a vital exercise in a democracy.

"Our barangay elections are a way for us to exercise our democracy," Aquino said.

"Mahalaga na galing sa taumbayan ang halal, especially at the smallest unit of governance, so that our officials are accountable to their constituents and serve the people. Appointing barangay officials will only strengthen the patronage system in our country.”

Aquino added, if the barangay polls will be postponed, the SK Reform Act will go down the drain.

"Maganda ang mga repormang nakapaloob sa batas na ito at napapanahon nang maipatupad. Mauuwi lang ito sa wala kung hindi na naman matutuloy ang halalan," said Aquino.