PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte signed Republic Act No. 10952 that postpones the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections from the 23rd of this month to May next year. This would mean, one, that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) will stop all preparations for the polls and, two, that the uncertainty over the status of incumbent barangay officials will finally end.
The signing of the measure will also be felt more by the Cebu City Council where members of the Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) and Barug Team Rama are bickering over the status of ex-officio member Philip Zafra, president of the Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) in the city. The other day, Barug Team Rama members boycotted the regular session to protest efforts by BOPK councilors and Mayor Tomas Osmeña to oust Zafra from the council.
Section 3 of Republic Act 10952 states: “Until their successors shall have been duly elected and qualified, all incumbent barangay officials shall remain in office, unless sooner removed or suspended for cause: Provided, that barangay officials who are ex-officio members of the sangguniang bayan, sangguniang panlungsod, or sangguniang panlalawigan, as the case may be, shall continue to serve as such members in the sanggunian concerned until the next barangay election.”
That should take away the arguments used by the BOPK and Osmeña to prop up its effort to oust Zafra with the intention of ensuring that it would retain its hold on the city council by owning the majority. That effort began with City Councilor Sisinio Andales’s privilege speech followed by Osmeña’s claim that the law (backing the ouster move) is so clear he “almost memorized it.”
Zafra and Team Rama can also wave the pertinent provision of the new law at City Legal Officer Joseph Bernaldez, whose legal opinion sounded this way: unless the law expressly states that there is a hold-over capacity in his position, Zafra will have to leave. Republic Act 10952 has “expressly stated” that.
The remaining issue that the city council will have to settle now is whether last Tuesday’s Team Rama boycott is punishable under its house rules.