House minority backs barangay, SK polls postponement

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 01 2016 04:50 AM | Updated as of Sep 01 2016 05:21 AM

MANILA – The House minority is backing the postponement of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections "as a move to resolve the issue of narco-politics in the barangay level." 

However, they are against the holdover of incumbent barangay officials.

In a statement read by Minority Leader Danilo Suarez, the group cited a PDEA report claiming 94% of the barangays in the country are classified as drug infested. 

"This puts a serious issue on whether our barangay officials can effectively police their own backyards. We see the postponement as an interim period that gives us wiggle room to consider the quality of leadership in the barangay level," Suarez said.

However, the minority leader goes on to say that they "would like to bring to the table for discussion the option of appointing an officer-in-charge in the barangays until the October 2017 elections.”

“The OIC would be selected based on demonstrated competence. We would also bring into discussion the risks of holding over those barangay officials who are or have been connected to illegal activities. We understand that this seems to be a novel approach and our intention is to maximize the interim period for all the benefit it can provide to our nation," the lawmaker said. 

Suarez went onto note that the postponement will be an exercise of fiscal prudence, citing the cost of holding the election—P3.4 billion. Suarez also noted the possibility of a referendum next year.

During the open forum, Suarez revealed the President will likely appoint the OIC's. 

Meanwhile, Buhay Party List Rep. Lito Atienza said, "Just because the barangay is infested with the drug problem doesn’t mean that the chairman is in cahoots or part of the problem."

Atienza pointed out that DILG has officials in local government units and they have their lists for those tainted with drugs. 

Kabayan Party List Rep. Harry Roque, meanwhile, said he sees no constitutional impediment. 
"The term of barangay captain is not in the constitution. It’s only provided by law. That’s why the minority leader said it can be also amended by law. That’s why the proposal precisely is not automatically to extend them but to appoint, the president to appoint," Roque explained.

The lawmakers expressed belief that the President can make appointments—even if these could run up to as much as 46,000—since incumbents will be asked to stay until replacements have been appointed.

For Roque, it is important to deal with the appointment of the barangay chairman first, and let him deal with the issue of appointing kagawads.

“I think the OIC would be in a better position to know who should serve.”