SC declares law postponing Brgy, SK polls unconstitutional
MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court (SC) declared as unconstitutional the law postponing Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (BSK) elections from its initial schedule of Dec. 5, 2022, to the last Monday of October 2023.
But it recognized the legal practicality and necessity to proceed with the elections on the last Monday of October this year.
In a decision penned by Associate Justice Antonio Kho Jr., the Court en banc granted the consolidated petitions of lawyers Romulo Macalintal, Albert Hidalgo, Frances May Realino, and several other lawyers questioning the legality of Republic Act 11935, commonly known as the “Act Postponing the December 2022 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections.”
The law was signed by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on October 10, 2022. Aside from rescheduling the BSK elections from December 5, 2022, to the last Monday of October 2023. It likewise allowed incumbent BSK officials to remain in office unless sooner removed or suspended.
In the petition filed by the lawyers led by Macalintal, they argued that while the Constitution gives Congress the power to determine or fix the term of office of barangay (village) officials, it does not allow Congress to defer the barangay elections or extend the term of office of barangay officials.
In its ruling, the SC declared that the free and meaningful exercise of the right to vote, as protected and guaranteed by the Constitution, requires the holding of “genuine periodic elections,” which must be held at intervals not unduly long, and that the Commission on Elections does not have the power to postpone elections on a nationwide basis.
“This power lies with the Congress pursuant to its plenary power to legislate and its power to fix the term of office of barangay officials under Article X, Section 8 of the Constitution,” the High Court said.
The SC added that the case had not been rendered moot to preclude the exercise of its judicial review power because RA 11935 transgression on the people’s right to suffrage is continuing and did not cease upon the lapse of the December 5, 2022, election schedule.
It added that RA 11935 “violates the freedom of suffrage as it fails to satisfy the requirements of the substantive aspect of the due process clause of the Constitution.”
“The Court found that there was no legitimate government interest or objective to support the legislative measure and that the law unconstitutionally exceeds the bounds of the Congress’ power to legislate,” the SC said.
It added that the enactment of RA 19935 was “attended with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.”
“The postponement of the 2022 BSK elections by RA 11935 for the purpose of augmenting the Executive’s fund is violative of the Constitution because it unconstitutionally transgresses the constitutional prohibition against any transfer of appropriations, and it unconstitutionally and arbitrarily overreaches the exercise of the rights of suffrage, liberty, and expression,” the Court added.
With the conduct of the BSK elections in October this year, the SC said the term of office of the sitting BSK officials should be deemed to have ended on December 31, 2022, following the provisions of RA 11462, the law repealed by RA 11935.
“In the interim, the sitting BSK officials shall continue to hold office until their successors shall have been elected and qualified,” it said, adding that the continued discharge of functions by the sitting BSK officials in a hold-over capacity, following the provisions of RA 11935, “shall in no way constitute as an unconstitutional legislative appointment.”
The SC further ruled that succeeding BSK elections shall be held on the first Monday of December 2025 and every three years thereafter, pursuant to RA 11462.
“The postponement of the election must be justified by reasons sufficiently important, substantial, and compelling under the circumstances,” it said.
“The postponement must be intended to guarantee the conduct of free, honest, orderly and safe elections,” it added.