President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law last Monday the bill postponing the scheduled Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections from October 23 to the second Monday of May 2018.
Making good on earlier statements he will postpone the elections while his government struggles to rid barangays of narco-politicians, Duterte signed Republic Act 10952 amending earlier laws setting the elections on the fourth Monday of this month.
“When can we expect to have clean elections, free of the corrupting influence of the money from drugs? This year? I told Senate President (Aquilino Pimentel III) and (House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez) to tell legislators that if we hold the barangay elections now…patay (we’re dead),” the President told members of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines last March.
“Since six or seven years ago, we were already a narco-politics state,” Duterte explained.
The law allows incumbent barangays and youth officials to stay in office in a holdover capacity.
The Commission on Elections for its part issued a memorandum Wednesday to all department directors and heads and election directors in Luzon and Visayas to suspend ongoing preparations for the elections.
“All activities in connection with the October 2017 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections are suspended,” the memorandum, signed by Chairperson J. Andres Bautista said.
Mindanao, which is under Duterte’s martial law, was not mentioned in the Comelec memorandum.
Earlier, Liberal Party senators urged Duterte to rethink his plan to postpone the elections, to no avail.
“To further postpone barangay elections and opt to instead appoint the barangay officials means to impinge on the people’s right to vote and choose their leaders,” Senator Francis Pangilinan said in a statement last March.
Duterte, however, rejected the idea of appointing new officials for the 42,029 (as of June 2015) barangays in the entire country, opting to ask Congress for a law to postpone the elections instead.
“”It’s important that people are given that choice (of choosing their officials). And, palagay ko naman, ang taumbayan natin, may kakayahan na piliin kung sino ang mabuti at masama,” Senator Bam Aquino for his part said.
Aquino added he wanted both the SK and barangay elections to “push through,” saying it is the electorate who can remove officials who might be involved in illegal drugs from their posts and replace them with better candidates. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)