MANILA - At least two senators on Wednesday said allowing President Rodrigo Duterte to handpick replacements for barangay officials may be unconstitutional.
A Senate committee report on the postponement of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections to October 2018, if adopted, would allow Duterte to appoint officers-in-charge (OICs) in place of incumbents who are on his drug list.
But Senator Panfilo Lacson said this may be problematic due to the existence of rules on succession.
"Maaaring unconstitutional iyung pag-appoint. Malinaw naman unang-una na may rule on sucession e: na kapag natanggal o namatay o incapacitated ang barangay chairman, may sinusunod na alituntunin sa Saligang Batas na may rule on succession," he told radio DZMM.
He explained that the barangay kagawad with the highest number of votes will succeed the chairman.
Lacson said rules are also stated in relation to the removal of public officials, and may not simply be superseded by Duterte's list.
"Kung i-a-appoint, anong basehan? Iyung drug list? Hindi rin naman siguro pupuwede kasi mayroon naman tayong proseso na sinusunod sa pagtatanggal ng opisyales ng gobyerno," he said.
Lacson said he will manifest and interpellate Senator Richard Gordon, vice-chairman of the Committee on Electoral Reforms and People's Participation, to lead deliberations.
Meanwhile Senator Risa Hontiveros said having appointed officials puts into question where their loyalties lie--to the appointing power instead of the electorate.
"Kung appointed lamang kahit pa ng highest elected official natin, to whom are they accountable? Hindi na sa mga constituents nila na dapat. How can voters exercise our right to choose our officials at that most basic level of government?" she told ANC's Headstart.
"It will still be debated in the Senate at marami po kaming argumento against it, including bakit gagamitin ang eleksyon o non-election instead of that appointment in aid of law enforcement kung yung isyung sinasabi ay yung drug issue sa barangay?"
She said elections and electoral reforms must be pursued parallel to law enforcement as the Duterte administration continues its campaign against illegal narcotics.
While the House of Representatives has approved on Monday the postponement the October 2017 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections to May 2018, Hontiveros noted that the proposal has yet to be discussed in their chamber.
She said some senators oppose both the postponement of the elections and Duterte's decision to appoint barangay officials.
She said with the proposal still hanging in the chamber, this would lead to status quo, with the October 2017 polls pushing through.
"You could say na since September na at hindi pa pumapasa, ni hindi pa pinag-uusapan yung panukala to postpone, that our law is still operational—we will continue on October," she said.
"That is what should happen because the operative law is still what we passed last October—na tuloy ang eleksyon ngayong Oktubre 2017," she added.
"I believe not only that they should but that they will. Dapat talaga i-claim ito ng mga botante, ng mga mamamayan na tuloy ang eleksiyon sa barangay saka sa SK."
Senator Richard Gordon earlier said he backs the proposal to postpone the barangay elections, noting that the drug problem has infiltrated many barangays.
"If you allow elections, the chances are guns, gold and goons will prevail," he said.