MANILA, Sept 13 (Mabuhay) – Senator Leila de Lima is opposing a Senate committee report that will authorize President Rodrigo Duterte to replace barangay officials tagged in the so-called “drug list” with officers-in-charge (OICs).
In a letter sent to members of the Senate committee on electoral reforms and people’s participation, which De Lima chairs, the lawmaker said such provision “suffers from constitutional infirmities and would open the same to constitutional challenge if enacted.”
De Lima has been detained at the national police headquarters since February over drug-related charges.
Senator Richard Gordon, vice-chair of the committee, took over the deliberations on the bills postponing the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections, and authored the report.
In an interview Tuesday, Gordon said it was Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III who proposed the said provision allowing Duterte to appoint OICs. Pimentel is the president of the PDP-Laban, where Duterte sits as chairman.
De Lima, former Justice secretary, argued that the Local Government Code already provides a mechanism to charge barangay officials who are involved in the illegal drug trade.
“Mere statement that the drug list if confirmed and validated does not constitute sufficient standard that would warrant dismissal from service of a duly-elected barangay official,” De Lima further said.
“The requirements of due process mandates that there be sufficient standards to support punitive actions and that the persons charged be given the opportunity to have their day in court,” she added.
De Lima said she was in favor of pushing through with the nationwide barangay and SK polls next month, except in Mindanao where the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has already suspended the elections.
The House of Representatives has approved a bill that would reschedule the barangay and SK polls to May 2018. The Senate version, however, proposed the postponement until October next year.
De Lima said holding an elections in October 2018, months before the midterm elections in 2019, would put “unimaginable pressure” on Comelec.
“We could end up with a situation in which Comelec is simultaneously administering the election and/or handling post-election matters while handling the filing of certificates of candidacy for the May 2019 elections,” De Lima said.
The House and Senate versions are expected to go into bicameral conference committee to reconcile disagreeing provisions. (MNS)