“The Philippines is a democratic and republican State. Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.” -The 1987 Constitution-
The fight for freedom and democracy was never an easy battle. Many heroes, both the known and the unsung, have offered their wits, their resources, their strength, and, ultimately, their lives to break the shackles of colonialism and cut down the chains of authoritarian rule. Significant sacrifices were made before the people were given what rightfully belongs to them – the liberty to be masters of their own destiny, both in the individual and the communal aspects.
It is, therefore, saddening to know that there are certain quarters of society that wish to take away the right of the people to choose their leaders in their community. They desire to disenfranchise the people’s right to suffrage and then centralize to only one man or, if not, to a group of elite individuals the power to select the barangay officials who will rule over a given area and chart the future of the individuals living therein.
As advocates of participatory governance, the City Government of Naga cannot just sit down in silence and idly watch the public in its course of being disconnected with their barangay governments. Hence, on 4 April 2017, we enacted on joint and collective motion Resolution No. 2017-216 expressing the strong opposition of the City Government of Naga to the proposal of appointing barangay officials.
Supporters of the proposal say that appointment of barangay officials by the President or a certain committee, body or task force is a way to eliminate narco-politics in the country. They allege that approximately 40 percent of all incumbent barangay officials in the Philippines are involved in illegal drugs.
Even assuming arguendo that the submission is true, we firmly believe that the proper course of action is not to make the people suffer by stripping them off with one of their fundamental rights, but rather to charge those erring officials before the courts and let due process run its proper course.
Moreover, to consent to the plan of appointing barangay officials is to permit the infringement of the Constitution which all of us, especially those in public office, have sworn to protect and uphold. Article IX, C, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution clearly shows its intention to make barangay offices elective in nature as it explicitly gives the Commission on Election the authority to promulgate final and executory decisions on election contests involving the same.
Meanwhile, Article X, Section 8 gives Congress the discretion to set or modify the term of office of barangay officials, but not the manner of their selection. To quote:
“SECTION 8. The term of office of elective local officials, except barangay officials, which shall be determined by law, shall be three years and no such official shall serve for more than three consecutive terms. Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of his service for the full term for which he was elected.”
Lest it be misconstrued, the City Government of Naga remains supportive of the administration of President Rodrigo R. Duterte and his campaign against illegal drugs. But, the city government will not turn a blind eye and abandon the people in its quest to preserve and protect its hard-earned democracy. It will also continue to uphold the Constitution it has sworn to support. After all, a government should always be “of the people, by the people and for the people.”