LIBERAL Party Rep. Teddy Brawner Baguilat of Ifugao on Sunday vowed to block the passage of the bill that would allow President Duterte to declare all elected barangay positions vacant and authorize him to appoint barangay officials.
Baguilat slammed the crafting of the bill as “a gimmick straight out of an authoritarian playbook, a plan to mock the legislature’s sworn duty to defend democracy, and a scheme that destroys the right of citizens to choose who should lead them”.
The lawmaker assailed the planned legislation as currying favor with a President who is by law entitled only to a single six-year term, “but who is apparently lusting for far longer stay in Malacañang”.
Baguilat described the justification for handpicking barangay officials as far worse than the listing of public officials who were supposedly in on the drug trade, many of whom have never been investigated, much less proven to be protectors of drug lords.
Duterte earlier claimed that about 40 percent of barangay officials are linked to the illegal-drugs trade, but he has not offered evidence to back up his claim.
“What is the basis for saying that 40 percent of [barangay] officials are connected to drugs? It does not make sense. And even assuming that some are, can’t we trust the Filipino people to vote for those who they believe will be the right candidates for them? We are a free people, and we must be free to elect our own leaders,” Baguilat said.
“If this administration is so convinced that these barangay officials are into drugs, then it should file cases. That is certainly more efficient than vetting more than 200,000 people who will fill the barangay posts. Doing so will not address the problem, if there really is one as serious as the administration makes it out to be,” Baguilat added.
Baguilat warned his colleagues at the House of Representatives that doing away with a vital political exercise, like the barangay elections, would put the Duterte administration even closer to a dictatorship, with the President’s control over the two chambers of Congress practically reducing them to a rubber stamp.
“Barangay officials are supposedly non-political and supposedly nonpartisan. With this move, the President wants even the barangay officials to be beholden to him and that will put us even closer to a dictatorship,” Baguilat said.
“Doing so will deprive the people of their fundamental right to choose their leaders,” he added.
Baguilat added that the barangay is the smallest political unit, and the leaders are those closest to the people, especially those far from the center.
“By controlling these local leaders, the President will further strengthen his hold on the political system, preventing that healthy check-and-balance so essential to a democratic system that seeks to prevent abuse of power,” he also said.