Replace barangay officials with OICs until next polls – House minority

Mara Cepeda
Replace barangay officials with OICs until next polls – House minority
House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez says the prevalence of drug use in barangays nationwide puts into question the local officials' ability to police their own backyards

MANILA, Philippines – The House minority bloc said on Wednesday, August 31, that it wants President Rodrigo Duterte to appoint officers-in-charge (OICs) to replace barangay officials whose terms will end by October.

“We would like to bring to the table for discussion the option of appointing an officer-in-charge in the barangays until October 2017. The OIC would be selected based on demonstrated competence,” said House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez.  

“We would also bring to the discussion the risks of holding-over those barangay officials who are or have been connected to illegal activities,” he added. (READ: EXPLAINER: How serious is the PH drug problem? Here’s the data)

The barangay OIC appointments would be spearheaded by the Office of the President (OP) in close coordination with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), local government units (LGUs), the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), and other concerned agencies.

This comes after both the House of Representatives and the Senate agreed to postpone the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections slated for October 31, 2016 to October 23, 2017. 

The House and Senate versions of the bill also included a provision for an automatic extension of incumbent barangay and SK officials’ terms until the rescheduled polls.  

Both chambers are eyeing to pass their versions on 3rd and final reading by the first half of September. 

“The minority favors the postponement of the elections as a move to resolve the issue of narco-politics in the barangay level,” said Suarez.

According to him, the minority would speak with House Majority Leader Rudy Fariñas if the House bill could be amended to include a provision on the appointment of OICs.

The House Minority Leader also believes the OP, DILG, PDEA, LGUs and other agencies involved would have enough time to vet candidates for Duterte’s approval by October this year, which also marks the end of incumbent barangay officials’ tenure.

Should this push through, the OICs have the option to retain or replace people in appointive positions in their respective barangays. 

OICs to help address drug problem?

Duterte himself favors the postponement because he said drug money might influence the elections.

On Wednesday, Suarez cited the latest PDEA data that noted 94% of the country’s 42,036 barangays are “drug-infested.”  

He said this now puts into question whether current barangay officials can effectively police their own backyards. 

“If you’re not doing anything about the drug problem in your barangay, it means you’re incompetent or you’re in payola. The mere fact that an elected official is not doing anything with the drug problem with their respective areas of responsibility is already a ground to be suspected as a protector of drugs,” said Suarez.

Meanwhile, House Senior Deputy Minority Leader Lito Atienza said he does not agree with Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s preference to abolish barangay councils and the SK.  

“The kagawads (councilors) are very critically needed in the delivery of basic services in the barangay level. You remove them, you remove the democratic structure in the lowest unit, and that’s the barangay,” Atienza said. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.