Veteran election lawyer Romulo Macalintal wants December village polls to push thru
MANILA — Veteran election lawyer Romulo Macalintal on Monday filed a petition before the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of Republic Act No. 11935 which postpones the barangay elections to 2023.
In a 27-page petition, Macalintal argued Congress cannot postpone barangay elections nor extend the term of village officials. It can only fix the term of office through a law.
“The power to postpone elections is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) after it has determined that serious causes, as provided under Section 5 of the Omnibus Election Code (OEC), warrant such postponement,” he said.
“Thus, by enacting a law postponing a scheduled barangay elections, Congress is in effect executing said provision of the OEC or has overstepped its constitutional boundaries and assumed a function that is reserved to Comelec,” he added.
Under the Omnibus Election Code, serious causes for postponing elections include violence, terrorism, loss or destruction of election paraphernalia or records, force majeure, and other analogous causes that make holding of elections impossible.
Macalintal said there was no “prior determination” if any of these serious causes exist.
“What would prevent Congress from creating a law postponing the elections for other national and local elective positions based on the flimsiest of reasons? Likewise, what would prevent Congress now from continuously postponing barangay elections at its pleasure, thereby making the term of office of barangay officials indefinite or ever changing depending on the congressional/political mood?” he asked?
What the Congress, in effect, is doing, he said, is to “appoint” barangay officials since those whose term will expire on December 31, 2022 will be allowed to serve in a “holdover” capacity until November 30, 2023.
“For sure, Congress is not allowed by the Constitution to appoint any official who, under the Constitution, is required to be elected by his/her respective constituency. The Constitution is very clear that barangay officials are to be elected and not appointed,” he said.
The law will also violate the electorate’s right to due process, Macalintal argued, as they will be “forced to accept” the “appointed” barangay leaders whether they like them or not and without notice and hearing.
“Postponing the December 5, 2022 barangay election is a subtle way ‘to lengthen governance without the mandate from the governed.’ It deprives the electorate of their right to choose their barangay officials through popular elections,” he said.
Macalintal also cited the costs involved in rescheduling the conduct of the village polls.
He pointed out the December 2022 elections should have been held on May 11, 2020 with a budget of P6.09 billion.
Comelec chair George Garcia earlier told House lawmakers the poll body will need P10 billion if the barangay and SK polls will be held in May 2023 and P17 billion if conducted in December 2023.
Last week, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. signed RA 11935 into law, resetting the schedule of the barangay and SK polls to the “last Monday of October 2023.”
“Clearly, billions of pesos would be wasted if the December 5, 2022 barangay elections would be postponed without any valid reason at all,” Macalintal said.
Comelec has already started printing the ballots for the December 2022 polls only to halt it to reflect the October 30, 2023 date in the next batch of ballots.
Macalintal urged the high court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) to stop the implementation of the law postponing the barangay polls.
However, he clarified that he is not opposed to postponing the Sangguniang Kabataan elections since membership SK membership was created only by law which Congress can amend anytime.
A veteran election lawyer, Macalintal’s former clients include Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, former Vice President Noli De Castro, former Vice President Leni Robredo, former Senate President Vicente Sotto III, former senators Ralph Recto and Manny Pacquiao, as well as Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri.