Sen. Leila M. de Lima today slammed the Duterte administration’s proposal to declare vacant all positions at the barangay level vacant and appoint barangay officials in lieu of holding elections this year.
De Lima, chairperson of the Senate electoral reforms and people’s participation committee, said that appointing barangay officials goes against the idea of barangays being non-partisan government units.
“As the basic political unit in the country, the barangay serves as the frontliner in delivering the basic and important services to people. It offers direct and immediate assistance and support to the community. Barangay officials play a crucial role in providing effective and accountable local governance,” she said.
“Appointing barangay officials, instead of electing them, goes against the principles of shielding them from partisan politics. That is one of the reasons why barangay elections are held separately from national and local elections,” she added.
De Lima, a former election lawyer, said she believes that members of the community should have a primary say on who deserves to hold positions in the barangay, as they are in the best position to gauge who can be the most responsive to their needs.
The senator from Bicol authored Senate Bill No. 371, which seeks to ensure barangay officials are shielded from partisan activities by adjusting their terms of office to five years.
De Lima also slammed the proposal to declare all barangay positions vacant as part of the administration’s so-called war on drug. She said she believes that the declaration also violates each official’s right to due process, which will pre-judge them through consultations with mayors.
“Those who would be removed and not reappointed may have that stigma of being involved in drugs. They have every right for a chance to clear their name before being removed from office,” she said.
“Given the political situation at the grassroots and the culture of fabricating accusations, it’s possible for baseless recommendations to emanate from mayors so they can have their allies appointed to barangay posts, and maintain control over cities and municipalities. It is political patronage taken to a whole new level,” she added.
De Lima also pointed out that the proposal to appoint barangay officials is a desperate move for the administration to maintain its political capital, which she believes is eroding slowly due to its continuous blunders.