ELECTIONS lawyer Romulo Macalintal Monday (April 22) asked in a letter-petition the Comelec to clarify whether barangay officials are allowed to take part in partisan political activities for the May 13 midterm election.
But there’s already a standing order of the Comelec, repeated in a press briefing jointly with the Civil Service Commission in 2016 and affirmed in a series of recent warnings by DILG, which oversees local governments. And the existing order says “no electioneering” by elected barangay officials.
So what’s Macalintal who’s running for the Senate up to, aside from getting some media exposure?
Order and warnings
Even granting that Macalintal is genuinely concerned about a number of barangay officials who have already received written warnings from DILG for possible suspension, removal or even criminal prosecution, one cannot expect a turnaround by the Comelec, not before May 13 anyway.
The warnings include citations of the Local Government Code, the March 29, 2016 joint resolution of the Civil Service Commission and Comelec, the Administrative Code and the Omnibus Election Code.
There has been no dispute that appointed officials are covered by the ban. What Macalintal is tilting against is the prohibition on elected barangay officials.
What he must rely on is the Constitution, not the laws and administrative orders that the constitutional ban has spawned.
The Constitution (#4, Article IX-B) says that “no office or employee in the Civil Service shall engage directly or indirectly, in any electioneering or partisan political campaign.”
But the law (Omnibus Election Code, Section 261 (i) expressly exempts “political offices.” And the Supreme Court (Quinto vs. Comelec, GR #189698 of 2010) said the term refers to “public officials who by the very nature of their office. engage in partisan political activities almost all year round, even outside of the campaign period.”
Not by CS exams
Barangay officials get their office by election, not by test or examination but by politicking. Must they be lumped with those covered by the Civil Service?
To be sure, barangay officials belong to that group that caters to the needs of constituents at the grassroots level, who are deemed leaders-on-the-ground of politicians on the higher rung of the political ladder. Barangay leaders are foot soldiers of the mayor, congressman, board member, governor. It. Is. Partisan.
But here’s the farce and myth: The barangay election is theoretically deemed a non-partisan activity, with the candidates not endorsed or supported by any politician or political party. And, to uphold the farce and myth, elected barangay officials are ordered to keep their hands off the campaign in all the elections except their own.
Thus, in that 2016 joint Comelec-CSC resolution, the listing of officials exempted from the campaign ban include the president, vice president, Cabinet members and “all other elected officials except barangay officials.”
Why does the ban afflict only the elected barangay officials? Because of that myth and farce on non-partisanship.
Crack on the wall
The crack on the wall for Macalintal, if he presses on his fight on the issue whatever the election result, is the Constitution itself. If the president, his official family and other elected officials are exempted from the ban, how can the laws and orders implementing the Constitution rationally and legally not exempt barangay officials too?
The SC may see the incongruity and absurdity of banning barangay officials from the swamp of politics during the elections when they wallow neck-deep in it each year of their term of office.
And it’s also about time, don’t you think, to end the farce and the myth of barangay officials, their election and their activities being non-partisan.