House pushes for holdover barangay officials until May 2018
MANILA, Philippines – Voting during a caucus on Monday, August 7, members of the House of Representatives once again pushed for the postponement of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections, this time agreeing to two compromises: to delay the exercise only until May 2018, and to allow incumbents to occupy their posts until then.
Currently, the Senate version of the bill proposes to postpone this year's village and youth polls to October 2018, while the House version, filed by Surigao del Norte Representative Robert Ace Barbers, wants to moved them to May 2020. Both measures seek to replace the incumbents with appointed officials. (READ: Are we postponing barangay and SK elections or not? P500M is at stake)
Congressmen are looking at synchronizing the elections with the plebiscite for the proposed law creating a Bangsamoro entity.
“The Lower House decided with that date, having in mind also a plebiscite that will be made for the BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law),” Cibac Representative Sherwin Tugna, chairman of the House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms, said in an interview after the all-members caucus.
He added: “We will be hitting two birds with one stone. Aside from the postponement and holdover of officials…there will be a chance to achieve peace in Mindanao. It will save government funds.”
Tugna said he expects the Senate to also hold a caucus in the coming weeks to discuss their own take on the matter. He also expects the two chambers to meet eventually.
Duterte earlier signed a law postponing the barangay elections from October 2016 to October 2017. The President has long called for the postponement of the polls, citing the supposed threat of drug money influencing the elections.
But the President wanted to appoint barangay officials, again citing the need to weed out those with links to illegal drugs. (READ: Why Duterte's plan to appoint barangay officials violates the Constitution)
“Of course, it’s here that you see Congress as an independent body,” said Tunga, explaining that the idea to bring the issue to a vote during a caucus was an “independent decision” by House members.
The House of Representatives is dominated by members and allies of PDP-Laban, under whose banner Duterte ran in the 2016 elections. It has been accused of being a “rubber stamp” institution or one that failed to check and balance the executive.
Ako Bicol Representative Alfredo Garbin, who is part of the minority bloc, supported the outcome of the vote.
“The decision of the all-members caucus of the House of Representatives to postpone the October 2017 barangay elections to May of 2018 with holdover capacity is in keeping with the country's democratic process, that barangay officials must be elected and not to be appointed,” he said.
“The measure will have to pass through the legislative process, but it is apparent among the members of the House of Representatives that there will be a postponement and there will be a holdover,” said PBA Representative Jericho Nograles.
Navotas City Representative Toby Tiangco, who wanted the elections to be held in 2019 yet, said the caucus was attended by a little less than 200 legislators, during which the May 2018 vote won by “6 or 8 votes only.”
Tiangco said he wanted the elections held in 2019 to give more time for Duterte to weed out drug personalities among barangay officials as promised.
AnakPawis Representative Ariel Casilao, meanwhile, insisted on an October 2017 date for the barangay elections.
Tugna said he expects the committee to soon convene and discuss the result of the caucus vote “in the next two weeks.” – Rappler.com