A former member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission warned Wednesday that the President cannot appoint barangay captains all over the country.
In an interview with Radyo Veritas, Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani Jr. said the barangay, the smallest administrative division in the country, is rooted in the country's "elementary democracy."
He pointed out that under the Constitution, the power to choose barangay leaders rests on the people and not the President.
"Hindi puwedeng i-appoint yan, hindi yan ang batas. Yan ang pinaka elementary democracy natin, yung sa Barangay, diyan unang magagamit ang ating pagpili ng mga mamumuno sa ating bayan. Kaya yan ay itinakda ng batas para ang mga tao ang mamili hindi ang presidente,"Bacani said in the interview.
The bishop warned that allowing the President to appoint thousands of barangay leaders all over the country could signal the start of authoritarian rule.
The Philippines has 42,036 barangays, according to data from the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
"Nagiging authoritarian na tayo. Dahan dahan yan. Yan ang gripping authoritarianism, dinadahan-dahan ang mga mamamayan. Mapapansin mo yan ang mga tao dahan-dahang itinutulak, at ang mga tao kung basta-bastang papayag na lang, bandang huli ay diktador ang lilitaw sa ating presidente," Bacani said.
Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers has filed a bill calling for the postponement of the 2017 Barangay and SK elections until the fourth Monday of May 2020.
President Duterte earlier said he will not allow drug-tainted personalities to be elected as barangay officials, noting drug money may be used if there will be elections this year.
He also claimed that 40% of all the barangay captains in the country are involved in drugs.
Meanwhile, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said he is optimistic that they will be able to pass a law that would postpone the barangay elections and allow Duterte to appoint barangay captains.