‘Duterte picking barangay OICs a step away to martial law’
Opposition Senators criticized on Wednesday a measure that will postpone this year’s Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections and allow President Rodrigo Duterte to appoint barangay officers-in-charge (OICs) nationwide, warning that this “could be a step away to martial law”.
Senator Francis Pangilinan said that Senate Bill No. 1584, as well as the unfolding events across the country such as the declaration of martial law in Mindanao, spate of killings, and Congress’ allocation of a meager P1,000-budget for the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), among others, is a direct attack to the rights of the people.
The Senate committee on electoral reforms recently approved the bill that instead set Barangay and SK elections to October 2018 and allowed Duterte to select barangay OICs on interim basis.
“Hindi pwedeng tingnan ang cancellation ng Barangay at SK elections nang hiwalay sa iba pang nangyayari sa bayan,” Pangilinan noted in a statement. “Kaugnay ito sa nangyari kagabi sa Kamara, na binigyan lang ng P1,000 ang CHR, sa pag-extend ng martial law sa Mindanao, sa pagkalat ng fake news, sa paglibing ng isang diktador sa Libingan ng mga Bayani, at higit sa lahat, sa mga hindi sinusulusyunan na patayan.”
“Lahat iyan ay pag-atake sa ating mga karapatan,” Pangilinan added. “Lahat yan para burahin ang mga ipinanalo na nating karapatan: na mabuhay nang may dignidad, sa katotohanan, na pumili ng mga pinuno, na maipagtanggol laban sa mga abusado. Ano ang tawag sa mga planong ito? Diktadurya.”
According to Pangilinan, should the government decide to finally postpone this year’s Barangay and SK elections, the hold-over status of current officials must be respected because they were voted for by the people.
In the same statement, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the Barangay and SK elections should push through as schedule this year because “postponing (it) for the nth time will deprive the public their constitutional right to choose their leaders in the barangay level.
Duterte earlier claimed that some barangay officials are involved in illegal drugs, and that Barangay and SK elections this year should be deferred because of this so that he could appoint OICs in lieu of the hold-over status for the incumbent barangay officials.
Meanwhile, Senator Leila de Lima told the Senate committee on electoral reforms that she agrees with the position of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform (IPER) and National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) that Barangay and SK elections should proceed this year.
“A free election affords us the possibility of replacing barangay officials, perceived to be narco-politicians, through democratic means,” De Lima said.
The lady senator disagreed with letting Duterte appoint barangay OICs. She asserted that there are existing mechanisms to charge barangay officials who are validated to be involved in the illegal drug trade.
She said that “granting disciplinary power to the President in this bill is a legislative rider not allowed by the Constitution, and the cause for removal in the bill violates the right to due process of elected public officials.”
She added that the “unregulated power to remove barangay officials and appoint officers-in-charge will result in an administrative nightmare at best and corruption at worst.” She further argued that “many barangay officials do not have the means to challenge orders of removal from the Office of the President.”
Senator Bam Aquino, for his part, called for the urgent implementation of Republic Act 10742 or the SK Reform Act.
“We stand firmly against appointing barangay officials and concentrating power in Malacañang. If there is fear of barangay officials involved in the drug trade, step up investigations, expose these criminals, and bring them to justice,” Aquino said.
“We must not surrender our right to elect our leaders and destroy the building blocks of our democracy,” added Aquino, co-author and co-sponsor of the SK Reform Act. /kga
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