Is it legal for President Rodrigo Duterte to appoint all barangay captains in the country? The short answer is yes. I myself am uncomfortable about this proposition since I believe it is the people who should choose their leaders, but the reality is that, as Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella says, the Administrative Code of the Philippines gives the President the powers to fill up declared positions.
The premise, of course, is that Congress will pass a law moving the schedule of the barangay elections, in which case all barangay posts will be declared vacant. This will give way to Chapter 5, Book III of the Administrative Code of 1987:
Sec. 16. Power of Appointment. – The President shall exercise the power to appoint such officials as provided for in the Constitution and laws.
Sec. 17. Power to Issue Temporary Designation. – (1) The President may temporarily designate an officer already in the government service or any other competent person to perform the functions of an office in the executive branch, appointment to which is vested in him by law, when: (a) the officer regularly appointed to the office is unable to perform his duties by reason of illness, absence or any other cause; or (b) there exists a vacancy…
The barangay election had already been postponed: it was supposed to be held on October 31 last year but Duterte signed a law moving it to October 23 this year. His reason for wanting to postpone the barangay election again is that he is afraid that if it goes through in October, drug money will be able to influence the voting so that barangay leaders with drug connections would get voter into office.
Duterte has publicly said he believes 40 percent of all barangay captains in the country are involved in drugs, a claim that I’m sure will be contested by some sectors but will be supported by those who have seen how illegal drugs have destroyed thousands of lives.
This, Abella says, is what we as a country must weigh. While the postponement of barangay elections could “impinge on the people’s rights to vote” or “disenfranchise voters,” we must also weigh this against the possibility that a number of barangay officials with links to the illegal drug trade “may unwittingly be elected into office given the sad state of patronage in local politics.”
Which one do we prefer?