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Letters to the Editor

Appointed barangay heads hazardous to democracy

/ 12:00 AM April 06, 2017

This refers to the editorial titled “Controlling the barangay” (Opinion, 3/28/17). I subscribe to the view that the most damaging effect of the proposal to have President Duterte appoint barangay heads wholesale, instead of subjecting them to elections, is to bind them to the appointing power by virtue of loyalty and patronage.

Is the proposal a sign of a collapsing democracy in the country? Aside from the damaging effect of this proposal, I can also picture the following scenarios:

  1. We would have a frightened population. Barangay residents would not dare question the authority or decisions of the punong barangays (PBs) appointed by the President. They would be accountable no longer to their barangay contituents but to the President.
  1. The power to appoint carries with it the power to remove. The removal of the appointed PBs would become a prerogative solely of the President. Article II, Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution—which specifically states that “Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them”—would thus be rendered meaningless; elections and the sovereign will of the people would no longer matter.
  1. The posts of PBs would be filled not anymore by merit selection. The President’s appointee may not be a man of principle and competence but a man of proven political loyalty to the President; hence, his appointment would be a patronage appointment, the purpose of which is to solidify the President’s power base.
  1. The PBs may perform their tasks or discharge their duties no longer for the benefit of the barangay residents but to serve the interest of the President.
  1. The “patronage appointment” of PBs would set a bad precedent and open up to an avalanche of abuse. There is no guarantee that such patronage appointment would not subsequently extend to municipal, city and provincial officials.

Let us not be under the illusion that we can solve the illegal drug problems in our country by postponing the barangay elections. The Duterte administration should file instead administrative and criminal complaints against the suspected barangay officials who are allegedly involved in the drug trade. Postponing the barangay elections already scheduled this October 2017 could only weaken our democracy and leave our people distrustful and skeptical of our political process.

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REGINALD B. TAMAYO, Marikina City

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