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Opposition solons decry decision to postpone barangay elections anew

MANILA, Aug. 8 — Opposition lawmakers belonging to the so-called “Magnificent Seven” independent minority bloc at the House of Representatives on Tuesday slammed their fellow lawmakers for agreeing to postpone anew the 2017 barangay elections.

In a House briefing, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said the consensus arrived at during Monday’s caucus is “trivializing” the democratic process of elections.

In 2016, Congress approved the bill postponing the 2016 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections on October 23, 2017, with the officials retaining a holdover position.

In postponing the village polls, lawmakers said they were heeding President Rodrigo Duterte’s call to postpone the elections so that the villages would be weeded out of barangay officials who are suspected of either having direct involvement in the illegal drugs trade or as coddlers of drug lords or pushers.

On Monday, the all-party caucus agreed to postpone it again to May 2018 to supposedly synchronize the barangay elections with the plebiscite for Charter change and the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

“This is a series of postponement in perpetuity that is derogating sovereignty. It trivializes our democratic processes, particularly so when what is being postponed is the election of village officials who are at the grassroots,” Lagman said in the press briefing.

“The independent minority bloc opposed any postponement of the village elections. We should not deny the people the opportunity to give a fresh mandate to the village officials,” the veteran lawmaker said.

Meanwhile, Akbayan Partylist Rep. Tom Villarin and Magdalo Partylist Rep. Gary Alejano both assailed the lack of progress in weeding out barangays of alleged drug coddlers even after a year of postponing the polls.

“After one year ng patayan, hindi pa ba nila nako-control (barangays)?” Alejano said.

In the meantime, Cibac Partylist Rep. Sherwin Tugna, chair of the House Committee on Suffrage and Elections Reform, said that lawmakers agreed during Monday’s caucus to postpone anew the elections to prevent the election of drug personalities in the most basic unit of governance.

“The main reason in favor of the postponement raised during the meeting was to be in sync and to support the administration’s war on drugs. President Duterte, in his public statements, called for the postponement of elections so the elections and barangay politics will not interfere with the ongoing fight to eradicate illegal drugs at the barangay level,” Tugna said in a separate press briefing Tuesday.

He said that postponing the elections would also give ample time for incumbent barangay officials to address and curb the drug-problem in their respective communities.

The partylist solon said that lawmakers who agreed on the postponement did so to balance the nation’s fight against illegal drugs and the people’s right to exercise their right to participate in the selection of their local leaders.

“We recognize that sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them. Thus, we give utmost importance to our democratic right to select our leaders, especially at the barangay level, the smallest unit of government in the nation,” he said.

“Sa huli, ang pagpapaliban ng halalan sa barangay sa Mayo 2018 ay makakabuti sa ating bansa dahil mapagtutuunan ng mga barangay officials at ilan pang ahensya ng gobyerno ang pagpuksa sa illegal na droga sa kani-kanilang mga barangay, upang tayo ay magkaroon ng mas ligtas at mapayapang pamayanan,” Tugna said. (PNA)

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