Unconstitutional! And so, the highest court of the land finally decided that the law effectively postponing the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) last December 5, 2022 in a bid to realign budget allocated for the Comelec into the recovery efforts against the COVID-19 pandemic – had violated the freedom of suffrage.
Republic Act 11935, or an “Act Postponing the December 2022 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections, Amending for the Purpose Republic Act No. 9164, as amended, Appropriating Funds therefor, and for other Purposes,” had been approved by no less than President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
The Chief Executive signed the law on October 10, 2022, just two months after the scheduled BSKE last December 5, 2022.
However, the Supreme Court has recognized the legal practicality and necessity to proceed with the elections on October 30 this year. It also said that the next BSKE shall be held on the first Monday of December 2025 and every three years thereafter.
Thus, the newly-elected BSK officials after the October 2023 polls, will only have at least two years to serve their terms and would again prepare for the next BSKE in 2025.
Existing BSK officials in “hold-over” capacity extremely enjoyed a year of existence in their posts receiving the same remunerations and luxury afforded to public officials in the grassroot level. Perhaps, it’s about time to change all these existing BSK officials who were tested during the interventions against the COVID-19 pandemic. The electorate saw the best and worst in them during that certain period and the elections give them the power to change their predicament.
For the first time, the Supreme Court clashed head on with the law that was signed by President Marcos noting that “RA 11935 violates the freedom of suffrage as it failed to satisfy the requisites of the substantive aspect of the due process clause of the Constitution.”
SC was quick to say that it is not asserting its power over Congress but “simply enforcing and upholding the supremacy of the Constitution.” To late the hero?
It further said the enactment of RA 11935 was “attended with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.” It said the postponement of the 2022 BSKE for the purpose of augmenting the Executive’s funds is violative of the Constitution because “it unconstitutionally transgresses the constitutional prohibition against any transfer of appropriations, and it unconstitutionally and arbitrarily overreaches the exercise of the rights of suffrage, liberty, and expression.”
It said the case is “capable of repetition yet evading review and thus, demands formulation of controlling principles to guide the bench, the bar, and the public.”
Leading the charge against RA 11935 were election lawyer Atty. Romulo B. Macalintal, Attys Alerto Hidalgo, Aluino Ala, Agerico Avila, Ted Cassey Castello, Joyce Ivy Macasa, and Frances May Realino, who all assailed the constitutionality of RA 11935.
Through the years, Macalintal had been at the forefront of election cases that made him popular among public officials with electoral issues.