THE House of Representatives on Monday approved on third and final reading a consolidated bill seeking to reset the scheduled Oct. 23, 2017 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections to May 14, 2018.
Voting 213-10, the Lower House approved House Bill 6308 with a holdover provision for incumbent officials.
Those who opposed the measure were six members of the Makabayan Bloc, two opposition—Reps. Gary Alejano of Magdalo party-list and Tom Villarin of Akbayan—and two administration—Reps. Raul del Mar of Cebu and Ramon Rocamora—lawmakers.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez welcomed the measure’s passage, saying “We support the President in his desire to postpone the barangay elections this October. The main reason for the postponement was to get rid of barangay officials involved in illegal drugs.”
In the Senate, Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV said the people and not President Rodrigo Duterte should choose next barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan leaders.
Aquino made this call as he criticized efforts to allow Duterte to appoint barangay officer-in-charge once the barangay and SK elections are postponed.
“We stand firmly against appointing barangay officials. These leaders should represent the people, serve the people and not to be indebted to Malacanang,” said Aquino.
“We must uphold our democracy and respect the right of the Filipino people to vote and elect their barangay leaders,” he added.
In 1986, after Corazon Aquino was swept to power, she replaced locally elected officials with officers-in-charge and also appointed a 48-member Constitutional Commission to rewrite the 1987 Charter written by elected members of a Constitutional Convention, with former President Diosdado Macapagal as the convention president.
Aquino insisted the people’s right to choose their leaders through the ballot was a foundation of the nation’s democracy that lawmakers must recognize and respect.
“Even if we hold over the current officials before the next elections, at least they have the mandate from the people,” said Aquino.
But Aquino wants the barangay and SK polls to push through this October, saying it was long overdue, most especially the implementation of Republic Act 10742 or the SK Reform Act.
“The last SK election was seven years ago. Since then, we’ve reformed the SK and even included an anti-political dynasty provision. I would personally want to see the SK elections push through to empower our youth leaders,” said Aquino.
As a former student leader and former chairman of the National Youth Commission, Aquino has long advocated the welfare of the Filipino youth through several legislations, including RA 10742, which he pushed as co-author and co-sponsor during his time as chairman of the Committee on Youth in the 16th Congress.
The law adjusts age limit of SK officials from 15-17 to 18-24 years old, making them legally capable of entering into contracts and be held accountable and liable for their actions.
The law also requires SK officials to undergo leadership training programs to expose them to the best practices in governance and guide their development as leaders.
The new law also mandates the creation of the Local Youth Development Council, a council that will support the SK and ensure the participation of more youth through youth organizations.
The LYDC will be composed of representatives from the different youth organizations in the community—student councils, church and youth faith groups, youth-serving organizations, and community-based youth groups.
Alvarez said Duterte was concerned that if the elections were held in October as originally scheduled, the candidates backed by money from drug lords would likely win.
He said he was optimistic the President would certify the measure as urgent.
Several bills have been pending in the House of Representatives seeking the postponement of the synchronized barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan polls in October.
Lawyer Czarena Aquino of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency earlier revealed the anti-drug agency arrested at least 87 barangay chairmen and 256 village councilors in the intensified anti-drug war campaign of President Duterte. With Macon Ramos-Araneta
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