Wednesday July 18, 2018

Seares: Bry. polls: ‘It could’ve been worse’

LAST Sept. 11, the House approved on final reading House Bill 6308 and last Sept. 20, the Senate also passed on final reading Senate Bill 1584, both (a) resetting barangay elections to May 14, 2018 and (b) extending the term of bry. officials.

Struck out from both bills was the provision allowing President Duterte to appoint officers-in-charge to fill the vacancies that would’ve occurred this Oct. 23.

Administration plan was not just to put off elections but also to pack the barangays nationwide with Duterte-appointed leaders.

Authoritarian label

The administration may avert confusion and disarray in picking 340,000 bry. officials, 42,028 of whom are bry. captains. Then president Cory Aquino did the same mass appointments in local governments in 1986. But the Duterte government cannot shake off the authoritarian label. Cory’s was a revolutionary government; Duterte’s is a full democracy where bry. officials have a fixed term and are picked in a non-partisan election.

It could’ve been worse, we are told. Had they pushed the power to appoint OICs along with the postponement, it would’ve empowered the president more than the Constitution intends.

So this was better because they scaled down their plan and dropped the idea of a wholesale replacement by executive decision?

Tantalizing, yet…

Instead of declaring martial law in the entire country, they declared it only in Mindanao, so that was better too? Martial law was not extended to cover the whole Philippines and only its duration was only extended: so it was better?
A tantalizing yet deceptive argument: just like being only robbed and not killed, or there’s only an earthquake that kills thousands of people but no tsunami follows to drown hundreds of others. It couldve been worse.

Bry. elections are delayed once more: Originally on Oct. 21, 2016, put off until Oct. 23, 2017, rescheduled until May 14 next year. But the president doesn’t appoint OICs.

Two too many

“One postponement too many,” said Cebu City North Rep. Raul del Mar. “To postpone it again for the second time is twice too many postponements.” Too much rest for a working democracy, del Mar in effect said.

Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano used a gruesome metaphor: “The administration is not only killing the drug suspects on the streets, it’s killing our democracy. Del Mar and Alejano are 10 who voted against the election delay; 213 voted yes.

But maybe the ruling party wants the postponement so it could fit in with political plans: to have the plebiscites on Bangsa Moro and Constitution amendments approved, along with with the bry. elections.

Local officials are more likely to rally behind the administation on the charter changes in 2018 in exchange for the ruling party’s support in two elections: the bry. polls in that year and the mid-term voting in 2019.

Not either or

But the thought that the nation’s plight could’ve been worse console us? Only if it’s an “either-or” thing.

Both choices are not good: (1) Delaying bry. elections is bad for democracy; its abnormal, a disruption. (2) Handpicking bry. leaders tends to weaken our institutions and strengthen any attempt at authoritarian rule. To eliminate the second won’t justify the first and will make it sound like a big favor to the nation.