Petition vs. law postponing brgy, SK polls filed with SC
Veteran election lawyer Romulo Macalintal on Monday filed with the Supreme Court a petition challenging the recently signed law postponing the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections (BSKE) from December 2022 to October 2023.
Interviewed on Dobol B TV prior to the filing, Macalintal said Congress has no power to postpone the barangay elections and to extend the term of office of the barangay officials.
"Sinasabi namin na wala namang kapangyarihan ang Kongreso na mag-postpone ng eleksyon [we are saying that Congress has no power to postpone the elections],” Macalintal said.
"Bagama’t ang Kongreso ay binigyan ng Saligang Batas ng kapangyarihan na itakda ‘yung panahon ng panunungkulan ng mga barangay officials, sa sandaling maitakda ang panahon na ‘yan, hindi pwedeng ma-extend, hindi puwedeng i-postpone ang isang nakatakdang halalan para lang ma-extend ang term ng barangay officials,” he added.
(Even though Congress was given the power to set the date of the elections for barangay officials, once this is set, this cannot be extended or postponed to extend the term of barangay officials.)
Macalintal's petition, however, does not include the SK elections.
“Sapagkat ang SK elections ay ginawa lamang ‘yan ng Kongreso… sa isang batas. Wala sa Constitution natin ang SK. Kaya ano man ang gawin ng Kongreso, talagang wala tayong magagawa doon,” he said.
(Because the SK elections were made by Congress through a law. It’s not in the Constitution, so they can do whatever they want with it. We can't do anything with it.)
Macalintal said if Congress is empowered to postpone elections, it would remove the authority of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) under existing laws.
"Maliwanag naman na ang Comelec lamang ang may kapangyarihan mag-postpone ng halalan sa mga kadahilanang nakasaad sa Section 5 ng Omnibus Election Code,” he said.
(It is clear that Comelec has the sole power to postpone the elections based on reasons under Section 5 of the Omnibus Election Code.)
According to the new law, all incumbent barangay and SK officials must serve until their successors are elected or they are earlier removed or suspended for cause.
The elected barangay and SK officials' terms of office begin at noon on November 30, 2023.
The next elections will then be held after three years.
Appointed, not elected
In the interview, Macalintal said if Congress will make incumbent barangay officials holdovers, these officials are no longer elected but appointed by Congress.
"They’re already appointed because their term expired December 2022. So 'pag nag-extension… sabi ng Korte Suprema, ‘yang holdover positions are legislative appointments,” Macalintal said.
(They are already appointed because their term expired in December 2022. So if their terms are extended, the Supreme Court said the supposed holdover positions are considered legislative appointments.)
Due to this, the officials will no longer be “representatives of the people” and will become “representatives of Congress.”
"Labag ‘yan sa Saligang Batas, sapagkat and Saligang Batas ang nagsasabi na ang mga barangay officials dapat elected, not appointed. Kaya itong Kongreso is doing indirectly what the Constitution prohibits them from doing directly,” he said.
(This is against the Constitution, because the Constitution states that barangay officials should be elected and not appointed. So Congress is doing indirectly what the Constitution prohibits them from doing directly.)
Macalintal said the voters’ right to vote is disregarded if the barangay officials’ terms are extended.
The Comelec previously said it would continue with its preparations for the 2022 BSKE just in case a temporary restraining order (TRO) was issued against the postponement.
Comelec Chairman George Erwin Garcia, meanwhile, said Macalintal's move was a "good development," adding that it is "high time" to get clarification on Congress' role to postpone elections under the Constitution.
"It's high time na magkaroon po ng interpretasyon ang Saligang Batas — sadya bang may kapangyarihan ang Kongreso na mag-postpone ng eleksyon; number 2, sadya bang kasama sa pagpo-postpone ang Barangay at SK o ito ay limitado lang sa ibang posisyon," he said.
"Maganda po na merong interpretasyon sa probisyon na 'yan."
(It is high time to have an interpretation of the Constitution regarding Congress' power to postpone elections. It's better to have an interpretation regarding that provision.)
Members of the media meanwhile reached out to the Palace to get its reaction regarding Macalintal’s petition before the SC.
So far, the Office of the Press Secretary said: "No comment."
For his part, lawyer Chel Diokno said he is supportive of Macalintal’s move.
"Sa ilang ulit na pagpapaliban ng BSKE, marami nang opisyal ng barangay at SK ang nagkaugat na sa kanilang mga puwesto at hindi na nabigyan ng puwang ang pagbabago," Diokno said in a statement.
(In the many times that the BSKE have been postponed, may barangay and SK officials have been rooted to their positions, thus preventing room for change.)
"Inaalisan din natin ng karapatan ang taumbayan, lalo na ang mga kabataan, na mamili ng mga lider na nararapat sa kanilang mga barangay," he added.
(Likewise, we deprive the public, much more the youth, of choosing leaders in their barangay.) —With a report from Anna Felicia Bajo/KBK/KG/RSJ, GMA News