Barangay, SK polls a need to weed out undesirables

>> Saturday, June 4, 2022


The barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections, which had been postponed many times are now another controversy which the incoming administration is bound to address.
    Multiple groups pushed back over the proposed postponement of said elections set for December 2022.
    In a statement, the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (Lente) and the Ateneo Human Rights Center, among others, noted that since 2016, barangay and SK elections have been postponed thrice.
    “In the past, barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections are often delayed, and officials end up holding office for up to five years,” they said in a statement on May 25. “This delay contravenes the standard of period elections as provided in Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
    Leyte 1st District Representative and House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, who is expected to assume the speakership in the 19th Congress, previously said lawmakers were mulling over the possibility of rescheduling the December 2022 barangay elections to save funds of up to P8 billion, which could be used for pandemic purposes.
    Two separate House bills have been filed seeking to reset the said polls to either May 2024 or December 2025.
    Lente and other groups however asserted that while pandemic response should be a major priority, it should not sacrifice Filipinos’ basic right to elect village and youth leaders.
    “We see the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections as the most attainable level of organic citizens’ participation in public service and governance,” they said. “[It] is the best testament that citizens with limited resources would like to take part in nation-building given the opportunities.”
    A history of repeatedly delayed barangay and SK polls has hounded the Duterte administration. The October 2016 polls was moved to October 2017, before it finally pushed through in May 2018. The next one was originally scheduled in May 2020, before it was moved again to December 2022.
    The Interior Department said the postponement of the 2022 barangay polls would be left to the incoming Ferdinand Marcos Jr. administration and the 19th Congress.
    The Commission on Elections, meanwhile, has said preparations for the village and youth council polls will begin in June despite calls for postponement, since it is not yet final. 
    The NPT joins various sectors in pushing for barangay and SK elections considering for one, some barangay officials are abusive and corrupt and people need new leaders in barangays levels.   

Party-lists ‘exploited’ by political groups?

This year’s ballot was long, to accommodate 177 groups aspiring for party-list seats in the House of Representatives. The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism reported some 70 of these groups had nominees who belong to political clans or related to incumbent elective officials.
    It’s bad enough that this year’s elections have been dominated by the wealthiest and most entrenched political dynasties. They have also increasingly used the party-list system as a backdoor for more seats in an ever-growing House of Representatives.
    That kind of Congress will never pass an enabling law for the constitutional prohibition on dynasties. And that kind of Congress will undoubtedly oppose President Duterte’s suggestion to the country’s new set of leaders, to abolish the party-list system.
    The President’s explanation for his call is what he deemed abuse of the system by groups he described to be communist front organizations.
    The groups have decried what they described as red-tagging and insisted they were among the few party-list organizations that actually represent marginalized sectors, as intended in the Constitution.
    In truth the party-list has been abused with impunity, with scarce public funds being drained by front organizations of regular political parties, dynastic clans, big business interests and even religious groups even if this last one is expressly prohibited in the Constitution. Today there are party-list lawmakers without a clue about the challenging task of legislation, and who shamelessly say they represent no particular sector.
    The enabling law for the party-list allowed this travesty of noble intentions, with a Supreme Court ruling upholding the abuse.
    Now some observers want the party-list abolished and saying it need not wait for Charter change. They say Republic Act 7941 or the Party-List System Act of 1995 can be repealed. Judging by voter preferences this year, the public won’t mind.
    The Commission on Elections reported only six party-list groups appeared to have garnered the requisite votes for congressional representation. Oppositionists to the system say the Comelec should not insist on filling all the 63 party-list seats available, adding vacancies will save taxpayers a great deal of money. The action of the incoming administration on the matter would determine the fate of party-lists. 


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