Alvarez: 2017 polls can be without SK, brgy kagawad

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 31 2016 06:51 PM

After an all-member caucus of the House of Representatives agreed to reschedule the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections to October 2017, the Speaker said on Wednesday that the said polls may not even include positions of the barangay kagawad and SK officials.

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez noted that if the elections were to be held in October this year, the barangay captain, barangay kagawads, and SK members will be elected to serve until the expiration of their term in 2019.

"If we were to move the elections to next year, 2017, I think we have enough time to amend the local government code so that by 2017, if congress will agree on my proposal to abolish the barangay kagawads and the SK, we will only be electing the barangay captains," he said.

READ: Why DILG wants barangay, SK polls suspended

Alvarez said, electing youngsters, aged 18 to 25 according to a new proposal, into the SK can lead to either their education being put on hold or their tasks done haphazardly.

He added, those in that age bracket can already run for regular positions in regular local elections.

"Yung kabataan naman is well-represented already. So para ano pa?," he said.

"The basis of their existence is a constitutional provision that we will encourage the youth in nation-building, etc. That is why we have that provision, but we have to be realistic," he added.

A campaign for the SK polls, he said, is usually paid for by the parents of the candidate, and costs usually involve vote-buying.

"May vote-buying na ‘yan. ‘Yan yung nangyayari sa ground. Instead of training them to be leaders, tina-train po natin sila how to play dirty politics," he said.

The job of the barangay kagawads, on the other hand, to author and pass barangay ordinances could be redundant of the job of city and municipal councilors, according to Alvarez.

"Ang dapat, and function ng barangay is to implement municipal or city ordinances sa kanilang barangay. So gagawa pa bang panibagong barangay ordinances yung barangay para i-implement nila? Hindi na siguro dapat," he said.

Alvarez said, the country would save P8.5-billion annually with the SK abolished, and another P15.8-billion annually without the barangay kagawads.

These savings, he said, should rather be funneled to increase the wages of purok leaders (smaller district leader), barangay healthworkers, barangay tanods (village watcher), daycare workers.

"Sila yung mga dapat i-institutionalize natin kasi sila yung nagde-deliver ng services doon sa community," he said.

He is optimistic that the proposal to abolish the SK and barangay kagawads will fly in Congress despite opposition from some politicians.

"Tingin ko naman, so far, marami namang nag-e-express ng support doon sa proposal ko. Tingin ko naman, kayang ipasa ito [I think this will be passed. The proposal will be accepted]," he said.

"Syempre, kung national figure ka, you want to champion yung cause nung nasa barangay, ‘di ba? Pero let’s rationalize yung ating bureaucracy kasi ang daming duplication and we are spending for the duplication…yet there are services that we have not yet delivered to the people that needs budget," he added.

He is also hopeful that after he explains his rationale, he will have the support of party-mates President Rodrigo Duterte and Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III.

UNCONSTITUTIONAL

Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, however, nixes Congress' plan to postpone the barangay elections, citing that it will, in effect, extend the office of those currently in power.

Macalintal said, though he agrees that the SK can be abolished by law since it was also created by law, the barangay positions were provided for in the Constitution.

"The Constitution is very clear—Congress can fix the term, but Congress cannot extend the term of office.. Otherwise, what can prevent congress from postponing the election of presidents? What will prevent congress from postponing the election of governors, of mayors? If they can do that in the barangay, they can do that in other positions," he said.

He also disagrees with Alvarez's suggestion that instead of a term extension for the incumbent, the Department of Interior and Local government can appoint an officer-in-charge.

"Hindi ho pwedeng by appointment because the Constitution is very clear that these barangay officials shall be elected. If we appoint them, hindi po pwede yun—that will be a violation of the Constitution [The law says barangay officials shall be elected and if they are appointed, that's against the law]," he said.

Macalintal also maintained that the drug menace seeping into the electoral process as alleged by Duterte is not a valid ground for postponing the October polls.

"If you postpone the election and extend the term of office, you are imposing upon the electorate a leader who is not, in effect, who is only created by law, and under the constitution, being a republic and state, we can only be governed by our elected leaders of our country and not by leaders imposed upon us by law," he said.