Delaying barangay polls 'trivializes' democratic process – House opposition

MANILA, Philippines – A day after an "exercise in futility" during an all-member caucus at the House of Representatives, legislators belonging to the opposition bloc expressed concern over a plan to postpone the barangay elections – yet again – to May 2018.

"[The postponement] trivializes our democratic processes, particularly when what is being postponed is the election of village officials at the grassroots," said Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman in a press briefing on Tuesday, August 8.

During an all-member caucus on Monday, August 7, most of the House pushed forward a plan to postpone barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections to May 2018, ideally alongside an expected plebiscite for the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). (READ: Are we postponing barangay and SK elections or not? P500M is at stake)

If the plan pushes through, it would be the second time for the barangay elections to be postponed under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. The President had earlier signed a law that moved the elections from October 2016 to October 2017.

Duterte himself has repeatedly said he wants to postpone the polls because he is afraid that drug money would influence its outcome.

Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin said the caucus was an "exercise in futility" since most House members were already in favor of the postponement. Majority of lawmakers in the House of Representatives are part of or allied with the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban). The opposition bloc, a mix of Liberal Party legislators and their allies, is against the postponement.

The opposition also questioned the supposed underlying reason for Duterte's desire to hold the elections – the alleged involvement of barangay leaders in the illegal drug trade.

"If the postponement pushes through, then let's have 6 months preparing people [for] how to address the problem if that's the country's main problem," said Villarin.

Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano, meanwhile, called on the Duterte administration to file cases against barangay officials allegedly involved in the drug trade.

CIBAC Representative Sherwin Tugna, who is also chairman of the House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms, earlier said they voted in favor of the further postponement both to give the President time for his drug war and to save the country money.

But while Duterte wants to appoint barangay officials in the interim, the House voted to allow elected officials to be "holdovers" until May 2018. Tugna said this was proof that the House was independent of the executive branch. (READ: Why Duterte's plan to appoint barangay officials violates the Constitution)

Lagman, however, sees a different reason. "When an issue is close to their turf, representatives have no problem defying [Duterte] and asserting their independence," he quipped. – Rappler.com