MANILA—A leader in the House of Representatives on Tuesday said the Constitution enables President Rodrigo Duterte to appoint officers-in-charge (OICs) in over 42,000 barangays (villages) as part of the administration’s bid to stamp out the drug menace in the country.
Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, chair of the House committee on dangerous drugs, made the statement amid mounting opposition to Duterte’s plan to postpone the barangay polls in October and appoint OICs to fill up the posts.
“The President is empowered by the Constitution in his plan to remove all barangay officials and appoint their successors pending new elections in May 2020,” Barbers said.
Barbers referred to Section 3 of Article 10 in the Constitution, which states that Congress shall enact a local government code which shall “provide for the qualifications, election, appointment and removal, term, salaries, powers and functions and duties of local officials, and all other matters relating to the organization and operation of the local units.”
Barbers further cited Section 8 of the same article, which provides that “the term of office of elective local officials, except barangay officials, which shall be determined by law, shall be three years and no such official shall serve for more than three consecutive terms.”
Barbers explained that these constitutional provisions allow the President, through a law passed by Congress, to “remove all barangay officials and appoint their successors.”
“Any law passed to this effect automatically amends the local government code,” he added.
Barbers has filed House Bill 5359, seeking to defer the October 2017 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections until May 2020, supposedly to cleanse drug-infested villages.
“The drug problem begins at the grassroots level, therefore, this is where we should start cleansing,” he added.
Barbers said the bill also pushes for the termination of incumbent barangay officials, thus allowing President Duterte to appoint a new set of “incorruptible” officers-in-charge toward a “drug-free Philippines”.
Under the bill, subsequent synchronized barangay and SK elections shall be held on the second Monday of May 2023 and every three years thereafter.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, for his part, expressed optimism the House of Representatives will be able to pass a measure postponing barangay elections and allowing the Chief Executive to appoint OICs by June.
Alvarez said there is enough time for Congress to pass a legislation amending the Local Government Code for the postponement of the October 2017 barangay elections, especially if President Duterte certifies the bill as urgent.
Alvarez is also confident the House supermajority will support Duterte’s proposal, noting that no member from the coalition has voiced his/her opposition.
Alvarez said the proposal will be patterned after Republic Act 10923, or the law that postponed last year’s barangay elections to Oct. 23, 2017, with an added provision of appointing barangay officials.
President Duterte earlier warned that if the October barangay elections would push through many drug-linked village officials would likely get re-elected.
Instead, the President said he wants the polls postponed and fill the vacant positions by appointment.