Wenceslao: Barangay polls a go

IT has been a while. When Rodrigo Duterte took over as president in 2016, among his initial moves was to work for the postponement of the barangay elections set for that year. Since then, the question that some of my friends who are also barangay officials ask me had been, “Will the barangay elections be held?” They obviously hoped the answer would be “no,” Another barangay polls postponement would mean the extension of their terms.

The Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections are different because while the polls have not been held in a while, previously elected SK officials weren’t given holdover advantage. The SK was on the verge of being abolished until Congress opted to retain it after instituting reforms. Among the most telling change was the institution of the anti-political dynasty provision for the elections.

Some members of the House of Representatives actually floated the possibility of the barangay and SK elections postponed again this year in keeping with the plan to rush the country’s shift to a federal setup. House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez even raised the “no-el” or no elections scheme for the 2019 midterm elections. But the Senate didn’t have anything to do with it, shooting down the no-el scenario.

With the barriers breached, the barangay and SK elections would finally be held as scheduled next month, with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) announcing the start of the filing of the certificates of candidacy tomorrow. My friends who want to run for reelection and those who are not barangay officials yet but have political ambitions at the barangay level will be trooping to Comelec offices tomorrow until April 20.

I have already written about my preference for the holding of the barangay and SK elections because I believe in the importance of elections in reinvigorating governance. President Duterte believe some barangay officials have links to the illegal drug trade and wants them purged first before elections are held. That he is now open to the holding of the polls proves the impossibility of doing the purging first.

It is now up to the barangay constituents if they would allow a narco-politician to become their leader. But I think majority of the voters don’t want the illegal drugs trade to strengthen and proliferate so they won’t allow a narco-politician to win. The most important thing here is that they should be given a chance to choose

their own leaders, which is one of the requirements of a functioning democracy.

We would be looking at some barangays where politicians in the level of the provinces, cities and towns would be dipping their fingers into because of the elections’ effect on the setup in the local legislative bodies. An example is Cebu City where the hold of the current majority in the Cebu City Council is fragile. This could change when, after the elections, new heads of the barangay and SK federations would take over.

The key there is to have as many winning barangay captains and SK chairpersons as possible. City Councilor Philip Zafra could be replaced after this and a new SK federation head in the city added. That could tilt the balance in the council either way.
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