It remains unclear if the synchronized barangay and sangguniang kabataan (SK) elections scheduled for October 23, 2017 will materialize or not.
During a recent trip to Myanmar, President Rodrigo Duterte said that he is not only considering postponing the elections – he might also have to appoint barangay leaders himself. This is because according to him, a lot of barangay officials in the country are involved or at least are protecting the illegal drug trade in their respective constituency. He’s off-the-cuff pronouncement will almost certainly face difficult legal challenges if it will really push through.
In the first place, why is it that barangay and SK elections can be postponed repeatedly? In our history, barangay elections have been postponed five times since it began in 1982. From May 1988 it was postponed to November 1988. Then from November 1988, it was again moved to March 28, 1989. For the third time, it was rescheduled from May 2000 to July 15, 2002, and finally from 2005 to 2007. And, as mentioned above, the barangay elections scheduled for October 2017 may end up being postponed again.
Speaking to The Filipino Scribe, Commission on Elections (COMELEC) spokesperson James Jimenez explained that it is indeed within the powers of Congress to postpone the conduct of the barangay elections.
“This falls under the plenary powers of Congress. It cannot make a law that it cannot repeal later on. Since the barangay elections are a creation of the Local Government Code – which is a law passed by Congress – it follows that it can be amended,” he said. It can be recalled that last year, the Congress passed Republic Act 10923 to pave the way for the one-year postponement of the barangay elections.
Now, having said that, it can be said that there is no satisfactory justification behind the repeated postponement of the barangay elections. In the first place, the budget is and will always be present. Second, this deprives voters of their constitutionally-guaranteed right to suffrage. Third, this continuous delay allows barangay leaders to overstay in their respective posts.
Lastly, if the Duterte administration really has strong proof that barangay officials are involved in the drug trade, a better course of action would be to pursue the appropriate charges instead of delaying the entire democratic process.