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Barangay officials want term extensions - again

MANILA, Philippines – Barangay officials are pushing to stay longer in office – again. And they are intensifying their lobby of lawmakers during an election season – again.

The Liga ng mga Barangay (League of Barangays) pushed for their members' current 3-year term of office to be extended to 5 years during a national convention on Thursday, September 27, where Vice President Jejomar Binay and senatorial aspirants for next year's polls were present.

Liga National President Ricojudge Janvier "RJ" Echiverri of Kalookan City made it clear that the organization is offering a quid pro quo: senators and congressmen who are supportive of a longer term for barangay officials will get the Liga's support in the 2013 elections. The league represents the elected and appointed officials of 42,000 villages across the country. 

"Napatunayan na ho namin sa mga nakaraang laban, senatorial at local, kapag kami'y nagkaisa, we can deliver the votes for any candidate that we choose," he said.

Echiverri told reporters that the senators who attended the convention and are willing to back their extension can expect support form barangays come 2013. "This is the basis for us to support them, and who is supporting the benefits and the term extension of the barangay," he said.

As of 3:30 pm, senatorial hopefuls running in 2013 who attended the event included re-electionist Francis "Chiz" Escudero and aspirants Margarita "Tingting" Cojuangco of PDP-Laban, Cynthia Villar of Nacionalista, and Sonny Angara of the Liberal Party.

Extended, shortened

If the current version of the House Bill mandating barangay term extension is approved, barangay officials can enjoy 15 consecutive years in office -- equivalent to 3 back-to-back terms.

Before this, the term of office of village officials has been changed twice. The Local Government Code originally provided for a 3-year term, maximum of 3 consecutive terms. In 1997, the league started pushing for a term extension and, when nobody was looking, a law (Republic Act 8524) was passed in Febrruary 1998 – just before the start of the campaign period for the presidential elections.

In 2002, the term limit was reverted to 3 years through Republic Act 9164. And now, the barangay officials want to 5 years per term again.

The league believes having five years per term will allow those in office to implement and sustain planned projects they have for their respective barangays.

Senator Bongbong Marcos, the chairman of the Senate committee on local governments, told the convention that he supports the move and has been in talks with Echiverri to understand the league's wishes.

"Ipa-file ko sa Senado ang companion bill na malapit na i-approve sa House of Representatives para idaan na sa Senado at mapabilis sa Senado," he said.

Marcos also said that while they had pushed for the barangay elections to be synchronized with the 2013 national elections, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said it would be too difficult. He added that they are instead proposing an automated election for barangays in 2015.

In his explanatory note of the bill pending in Congress, Cagayan de Oro Rep Rufus Rodriguez said "the three year term of barangay officials is too short a time for the unity and stability in barangay leadership and affairs," and that the last year of term is used for campaigning. Five years "would ensure more stability," he said.

No benefits?

Aside from term extension, another focus of the convention were the benefits that the Code mandates for barangay officials that, Echiverri claimed, they did not enjoy. These include honorarium, Christmas bonus, insurance, medical care, free tuition for their children, civil service eligibility, and preference in appointment to government offices after their term.

Vice President Jejomar Binay, who was the convention's keynote speaker, promised that he would speak to President Benigno Aquino III to make barangay officials part of Government Service Insurance System in order for them to avail of the benefits afforded government officials, including pensions for their retirement.

Binay also initiated a partnership between the league and Pag-IBIG in order for them to receive the benefits from the home development mutual fund including loans for enrollment, medical needs and calamity relief. –