February 26, 2024

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Election lawyer urges high court to invalidate law canceling the 2022 Barangay and SK polls.

Atty. Romulo Macalintal. Photo from FB

Veteran election lawmaker Atty. Romulo Macalintal, last Monday filed a petition at the Supreme Court asking the collegiate body to make Republic Act 11935, postponing the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Election 2022 (BSKE) to October 2022. He also questioned the authority of Congress in moving the polling schedule.

In his petition in the Supreme Court, Atty. Macalintal claimed that Congress has no power to postpone the election of barangay officials scheduled to Dec. 5, 2022 “because this power exclusively belongs to the Comelec (Commission on Elections)”

The petition read “At the outset, it should be emphasized that the Comelec, as an independent constitutional body, is vested by no less than the 1987 Constitution with broad and exclusive powers to resolve all questions relating to, or affecting, elections,”

He also said that Congress has no power to statutorily appoint barangay officials. Under the new law, sitting officials can keep their posts on a “holdover” capacity unless they are suspended or removed from office.

He explained that “The questioned law (RA 11935) which gave Congress the power to appoint barangay officials whose term will expire on Dec. 31, 2022 By virtue of Congress’, the supposed power to postpone the 2022 barangay elections under the questioned law, Congress actually makes ‘legislative appointments’ of these barangay officials”

The election lawyer added that lawmakers can only fix the term of office of the village-level officials, and not extend the same (term). Congress can also change the term of office of barangay officials, but this should apply to future elections and to future barangay officials. “And by extending the term of office of barangay officials, RA 11935 violates the principle that the term of said officials should not be longer than their superiors,” Macalintal said.

The law also deprives the “electorate of their right of suffrage to choose their barangay officials” and is against the “constitutional provision that the state shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service.”

Macalintal’s petition only wanted to question the postponement of the Barangay election, but did not cover the Sangguninag Kabataan which is also covered by RA 11935.which signed into law by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Oct. 10

“SK membership is a mere statutory right conferred by law (and that) Congress may amend at any time the law to change or even withdraw the statutory right,” the veteran election lawyer pointed out.

For his part, Comelec Chairman George Garcia said in an interview that the agency will continue its preparations for the postponed polls if ever the delay is challenged and proven unconstitutional.

Lawmakers took a pitch over the issue of postponement of BSKE 2022. Senator Imee Marcos said that “It is the Constitution that vests in Congress the power to determine the terms of barangay officials. Necessarily, it is Congress which can determine when barangay and SK elections shall be held.”

Sen. Escudero said that Atty. Macalintal has the right to question any law passed by Congress before the Supreme Court on constitutional grounds.

Sen. Jinggoy Estrada defers to the wisdom of the Supreme Court but as one of the proponents of the law, he said that Congress is vested by the Constitution with legislative power and it exercised such authority when lawmakers agreed to postpone the said polls

Estrada said. That “Such authority to postpone the barangay elections as well as the Sangguniang Kabataan elections (BSKE) has in fact been exercised thrice in the past prior to the enactment of RA 11935”.