MANILA–House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Friday backed the plan of President Rodrigo Duterte to cancel barangay (village) elections in October and instead appoint barangay officials in a bid to stamp out narcopolitics in the country.
In a radio interview, Alvarez said Duterte’s plan to appoint leaders of over 42,000 barangays is possible through a legislation amending the Local Government Code without violating the Constitution.
“Well, wala akong problema diyan at suportado ko ang ating Pangulo diyan dahil napaka-valid po noong reason, dahil tama yun, majority of the barangay officials are involved in illegal drugs, nagagamit ito,” Alvarez said in a radio interview.
(“Well, I don’t have any problem with that and I support our President on that matter because the reason is valid. In fact, majority of the barangay officials are involved in illegal drugs”
“Kinakailangan po ng legislation diyan para magbigay ng kapangyarihan sa Comelec na huwag ituloy yung election (A legislation is need to grant Comelec the power to defer the elections,” he added.
Alvarez said the necessary amendment can be proposed and tackled when Congress resumes session on May 2.
President Duterte had admitted that his plan to appoint barangay officials to fill the vacant posts would be “quite messy” because incumbent barangay officials would likely oppose the move.
According to the President, the first requirement for a barangay officer-in-charge nominee is that they should not have any connections at all with rebels. Second, is that they are not into drugs, and lastly, they are not really leaders of politicians.
The President said he would accept nominations from the Catholic Church, from Islam leaders, religious denominations and other organizations.
However, opposition lawmakers at the House of Representatives warned against this move of postponing anew the barangay polls and having its officials appointed instead.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said that existing laws do not provide for appointment of officers-in-charge (OICs) for elective barangay positions, stressing that the choice of elective officials belongs to the electorate.
“It has been consistently provided under the various barangay election laws, including the law which postponed the barangay elections to October 2017, that all barangay officials shall serve until their successors are duly elected and qualified, unless meanwhile they have been dismissed for cause,” Lagman said.
“Any further postponement of the village polls must not allow the appointment of OICs either by the President, or the Secretary of DILG,” he added.
For his part, Magdalo Partylist Rep. Gary Alejano said that administrative charges should be filed against barangay captains with alleged links to the illegal drug trade.
“In that way, those suspected barangay captains will have the opportunity to defend themselves and at the same time those who are considered clean will not be dragged unnecessarily and their names destroyed before the public,” Alejano said.