IT’S a done deal. The elections for barangay officials, scheduled later this year, will not push through. The remaining few steps before the bill postponing the elections becomes a law are just a formality. Even the contrary positions of the Lower House and the Senate on the proposal to authorize President Duterte to appoint village officers-in-charge can and will be easily hurdled since both houses take their signal from the president.
Incumbent barangay officials will be happy. The postponement means an extended stay in office for them unless Duterte changes his mind. He has already indicated that he is not interested in appointing temporary replacements for the barangay officials, whose terms of office have long expired but have managed to hold on to their positions by virtue of the holdover rule.
These officials’ political patrons - the governor, the mayor and the congressman - are also smiling because the postponement saves them a lot of money. Barangay elections are supposed to be non-partisan but as in any election regulation, that is honored in the breach than in the observance.
In Cebu City, the postponement will benefit Team Rama because majority of the barangay captains are allied with the group. The Association of Barangay Councils or ABC president, Philip Zafra, was Mike Rama’s man Friday until he ran for Tisa barangay captain and won. He sits in the city council as an ex-officio member and has consistently voted with the minority bloc in the council.
If, as the law provides, the seat vacated by now NLRC Commissioner Hanz Abella is filled up by a nominee of Team Rama, the regular (meaning elected) membership in the council will be evenly divided between the administration and the opposition at 8-8. The ABC presidency is therefore crucial as it will tilt the balance in the voting in the council.
It would not be surprising then if Mayor Tommy Osmeña had been looking forward to the barangay elections and the ensuing balloting for the ABC presidency. The postponement must be a disappointment to the mayor who has repeatedly expressed a wish for a BOPK-controlled legislature to allow him, he said, to pursue his programs and govern effectively.
I am also against the postponement because it is undemocratic. The elections are the closest thing the ordinary citizen has to participation in governance and even that has been taken away. It is obvious that the national government doesn’t hold much respect for barangay officials (when was the last time that the election for mayors and councilors was postponed?). Why don’t we just abolish the barangay elections and raffle off the positions to all qualified voters? That will not only save us the expense but also afford everyone equal opportunity to hold public office.
The House of Representatives has restored the budget of the Commission on Human Rights and members are trying very hard to look magnanimous for doing so. What a laugh.
The truth is that Congress retreated from the public backlash against their abusive exercise of their power of the purse in slashing the CHR budget for 2018 to only P1,000. Even Duterte has distanced himself from the decision.
All’s well that ends well? Not necessarily. For one, I still would like to know how our Cebuano congressmen voted on the measure. If they’re not saying, does anyone else know?
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on September 22, 2017.
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