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Imee, Jinggoy assert Constitution allows Congress to set date for barangay, SK polls

Senators Imee Marcos and Jinggoy Estrada on Monday asserted that the 1987 Constitution authorizes Congress to set the date for the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE).

They made their statements after election lawyer Romulo Macalintal filed a petition before the Supreme Court challenging the recently signed law postponing the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections (BSKE) from December 2022 to October 2023.

"Not knowing anything about the case and working merely on general knowledge, it is the Constitution that vests in Congress the power to determine the terms of barangay officials," Senator Marcos, chairperson of the Senate Electoral Reforms and People's Participation, said in a message shared with reporters.

"Necessarily, it is Congress which can determine when barangay and SK elections shall be held."

Senator Estrada, one of the authors of the recently approved law postponing the 2022 BSKE, issued a similar statement.

"Congress is vested by the Constitution with legislative power and we exercised such authority when we moved to defer the holding of the poll exercise this year," he said in his statement.

"Such authority to postpone the barangay elections as well as the Sangguniang Kabataan elections has in fact been exercised thrice in the past prior to the enactment of RA 11935," he added.

Estrada was confident that the High Court would immediately act on the petition but he did not argue on the merits of the case, saying he will defer to the wisdom of the SC justices.

"In a democratic society, everyone has an equal say on any issue, especially on the application of the law. Ang pagsampa ng petisyon sa Korte Suprema ay patunay na nanaig ang demokrasya sa ating bansa. Umaasa ako na papanigan ng kataas-taasang hukuman ang ipinasa naming batas," he said.

Senator Francis Escudero, who is also one of the authors of Republic Act 11935, mentioned that the SC had earlier ruled in favor of a similar issue on the constitutionality of BSKE postponement.

"Don't want to comment as I haven't read it. But suffice it to say that the SC has had occasion to rule on a similar issue [regarding the] constitutionality of a law on [Barangay and SK] postponement and ruled in favor of its constitutionality," Escudero, a lawyer, said in a separate text message.

Despite this, Escudero mentioned the possibility of issuing an injunction against the law postponing the 2022 BSKE.

"Unless the SC issues an injunction against the law postponing B&SK elections, the COMELEC cannot proceed with the elections. In fact, I seriously doubt if, given the passage of the law, COMELEC is doing anything to prepare for the supposed December elections so it might become moot in a few weeks," he said.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III deferred issuing a comment on the petition as he was still waiting for the court's action on the petition.

Interviewed on Dobol B TV before filing his petition, Macalintal said Congress had no power to postpone the barangay elections and to extend the term of office of the barangay officials.

Macalintal's petition, however, did not include the SK elections.

Macalintal said if Congress is empowered to postpone elections, it would remove the authority of the Comelec under existing laws.

The petition was welcomed by Comelec Chairman George Garcia, saying it was high time for the Supreme Court to rule if the Constitution authorizes Congress to postpone polls.

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. — DVM, GMA News