File photo by Joel Liporada/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – Surigao del Norte 2nd District Representative Robert Ace Barbers filed the first bill seeking to postpone the barangay elections originally set for October 23, 2017.
In House Bill (HB) Number 5359 filed on Wednesday, March 22, Barbers proposed moving this year's barangay polls to May 25, 2020.
President Rodrigo Duterte has said that he wants to postpone the barangay elections scheduled this year and appoint village officials.
Barbers sent the media a copy of the bill on Monday, March 27.
HB 5359 aims to allow the postponement of this year’s barangay polls by inserting provisions under Republic Act (RA) Number 9164, or the law providing for the synchronized barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections.
HB 5359 would also give the President the power to appoint barangay officials upon the postponement of the elections.
“All incumbent barangay officials shall be deemed terminated upon the approval of this Act. Officers-in-charge shall be appointed by the President,” read HB 5359.
Apart from fulfilling Duterte’s wishes, Barbers mentioned the ongoing war against drugs as one of the primary reasons for filing the said bill.
“Barangays are our first line of defense in the grassroots level. As such, they must spearhead the government’s fight against illegal drugs and must maintain a proactive stand in shielding the ordinary people from the drug menace,” Barbers said in his explanatory note.
“However, how will the barangay lead this war if some officials are patrons and protectors of drug lords? The barangay system is merely giving more benefit to the political patrons of these barangay officials, added to the fact that there is purported influence of drug money in the political exercise,” he added.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said he agrees with the President's plan, but clarified that the Local Government Code of 1991 must be amended first. Alvarez is currently in the process of filing his own version of the measure. (READ: Alvarez confident Local Gov't Code can be amended for barangay OICs)
Last year, both houses of Congress successfully passed the measure postponing the barangay and SK polls – initially scheduled October 2016 – after the President asked them to do so. (READ: Duterte signs law postponing barangay, SK elections)
Duterte 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.