PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte can appoint roughly 42,000 barangay chairmen by amending the current law governing the conduct of barangay elections, Malacañang said Monday.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella, in a statement, said Duterte’s plan to postpone barangay elections scheduled in October this year "to get rid" of barangay captains allegedly involved in drugs may materialize, if the current law is amended.
“Moving the schedule of the barangay elections, which is scheduled October this year, needs an amendment of the law. Without this new law, barangay elections will push through,” Abella said in a statement.
“The passage of a new law postponing the barangay elections will make all barangay positions vacant. Therefore, according to the Administrative Code of the Philippines, it is within the powers of the President to fill up declared vacant positions,” he added.
Duterte earlier sought to cancel barangay elections scheduled on October 30, saying 40 percent of barangay officials are linked to illegal drugs.
Abella said the government will still study the possible effects of declaring barangay positions vacant and appointing barangay officials.
"On the issue that the postponement of barangay elections will impinge on the people’s rights to vote or disenfranchise voters to register the people's right to vote must be carefully weighed against the possibility that a number of barangay officials with links to the illegal drug trade may unwittingly be elected into office, given the sad state of patronage in local politics," he said.
Poll postponement bill
To allow Duterte to appoint "incorruptible" barangay officials, Surigao del Norte Representative Robert Ace Barbers filed Monday a bill seeking to defer the October 2017 barangay and SK elections until May 2020.
House Bill 5359 calls for the postponement of both polls this year supposedly to cleanse drug-infested villages.
"There is a need to postpone the 2017 barangay elections to rid barangays of officials linked to illegal drug operations. The barangay election was postponed last year for the very same reason, and obviously, we have yet to consider our communities drug-free," Barbers said.
"The drug problem begins at the grassroots level, therefore, this is where we should start cleansing," he added.
Barbers said incumbent barangay officials must be terminated and allow Duterte to appoint officers-in-charge.
"Incumbent officials stand to enjoy extended term but fail to address the drug problem that our President has been seeking to exterminate since Day 1," Barbers said.
Under the bill, subsequent synchronized barangay and SK elections shall be held on the second Monday of May 2023 and every three years thereafter.
Last year, Duterte had postponed the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections supposedly set on October 30, 2016 due to the same concern that barangay chairpersons are involved in narcotics trade. (SunStar Philippines/PNA)