Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The postponement of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan

To postpone the scheduled 2016 barangay election, will not cause an extension of the ‘term’ of office of the barangay officials elected in 2013, but an extension of their tenure of office or the actual period of their stay in the office. And Congress has no power to extend the tenure of office of these officials since it had already fixed their term of office for three years.

1987 Constitution only empowers Congress to fix or determine the “term of office” of these barangay officials, but NOT their “tenure of office.”

The Senate and the House of Representatives approved on 3rd and final reading their respective bills seeking the postponement of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections to next year.

Voting 20-2, the Senate on Tuesday, September 13, approved Senate Bill 1112, which aims to move the two polls from October 31 this year to the 4th Monday of October in 2017.

For sure, when the barangay election law was deliberated upon by Congress, it consulted the Comelec as to the scheduled barangay elections and they were fully aware of the proximity in time of said elections to a regular national election. And yet, they agreed to these dates and the law was passed accordingly!

The terms of incumbent barangay and SK officials would be extended for a year “unless they are removed or suspended from office.”

Only Minority Leader Ralph Recto and minority Senator Antonio Trillanes IV opposed the bill.

“ELECTION FEVER” cannot be raised as a valid ground for the postponement of the process considering that barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections were also conducted in 2007, 2010 and 2013 without the Comelec asking for postponement.

The House voted 218-4 to approve House Bill 3504.

Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, chairman of the local government committee, said the postponement would allow more time for the full implementation of the recently enacted SK Reform Act or Republic Act 10742 and for the Commission on Elections to ensure higher voter turnout.

“Inuulit ko po, hindi natin isinasantabi ang karapatang bumoto ng bawat botante. Pansamantala lamang namin itong ipagpapaliban para mas maisayos at gawing mas makabuluhan ang eleksyon sa bansa,” Angara earlier said in his sponsorship speech.

“Makakatipid daw? Pero paano? (They say we can save? But how?) The math here is that by putting off the elections for a year, we are only putting aside funds budgeted for the elections for a year. We can only save money if we are permanently cancelling the polls. But we are only postponing it,” Recto said.

He explained: “In budget-speak, savings accrue from a terminated project, not from a deferred one. So instead of spending at least P7 billion if we will hold the elections this year, we will only delay spending it by a year, so in the end, we will still have to spend that P7 billion.”

He also criticized the government’s reasoning that the election bans would only hamper the administration’s anti-illegal drugs efforts.

The postponement, Recto claimed, would allow more corrupt barangay officials to stay longer in power and “rob” residents of the chance to remove their leaders who participate in crimes.

“Those who are barangay captains and drug captains at the same time will have a one year free pass, not courtesy of the people but of their fellow politicians,” Recto said in his speech.

“Don’t get me wrong. Mas maraming barangay leaders pa rin ang matitino. Di hamak na mas marami ang nagseserbisyo, mas marami ang nagsasakripisyo, mas marami ang naglilingkod nang todo-todo. Pero marami ring dapat nang palitan,” Recto said.

But If our barangay officials want to continue serving, they must get a new mandate in the elections scheduled on October 31. Otherwise, their extension will result to unlawful governance as the same is clearly without the mandate and voluntary consent of the electorate.

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