Barbers defends ‘realistic’ plan to appoint barangay officials

Mara Cepeda
The lawmaker says appointing 300,000 barangay officials is nothing compared to the number of drug suspects and crimes that 'would rise' if narco-politicians remain in power

'REALISTIC' MOVE? Surigao del Norte 2nd District Representative Robert Ace Barbers defends his bill giving the President the power to appoint barangay OICs. Photo by Mara Cepeda/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Surigao del Norte 2nd District Representative Robert Ace Barbers defended his bill seeking to postpone the 2017 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections and also give President Rodrigo Duterte the power to appoint barangay officers-in-charge (OICs).

The lawmaker was asked if it is even realistic for the President to properly screen and appoint some 300,000 barangay officials nationwide.  

“I think it is realistic in the sense that there should be a screening committee or a vetting committee to be formed in every LGU (local government unit) to make it easier, expeditious, and klaro, ‘no (clear, right)?” said Barbers in a press conference on Monday, April 3.  

He recently filed House Bill (HB) Number 5359, which not only moves this year’s barangay and SK polls to May 25, 2020, but also allows Duterte to appoint barangay OICs. (READ: Duterte wants to appoint barangay OICs if polls reset)

The President had said that holding barangay elections would only ensure the victory of candidates funded by drug lords. According to Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno, the President wants handpicked appointees in every barangay in the Philippines to rid the country of drugs.

For Barbers, appointing 300,000 barangay officials is nothing compared to the number of drug suspects and crimes that he said would rise if narco-politicians remain in power.

“As of this time, as we speak, we have 5 million drug dependents in our country, with 40% of our barangay officials being involved in drugs. Let’s not wait anymore that this 5 million becomes 10 million!” said Barbers.

“Just imagine you have 10 million drug dependents. These are 10 million potential criminals, 10 million potential rapists, 10 million potential robbers and murderers. Now, anong mas importante: ‘yung 10 milyong ‘yan or ‘yung 300,000? ‘Yung 300,000, puwedeng gawan ng sistema ‘yan para mapabilis eh (Now, which is more important: the 10 million or the 300,000? The 300,000, you can create a system to speed up the appointments),” he added.

Duterte himself pegs the number of drug addicts in the Philippines between 3 million and 4 million, but data from the Dangerous Drugs Board show there are only 1.8 million current drug users in the country. Another 4.8 million used illegal drugs at least once in their lives.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez agrees with Duterte’s plan to appoint barangay OICs while the elections are postponed, but clarified that the Local Government Code of 1991 must be amended first.

Election lawyer Emil Marañon III earlier pointed out that Barbers’ HB 5359 violates the 1987 Constitution– Rappler.com

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.