Several hundreds of incumbent barangay officials I have talked to recently told me that they were advised by their local Commission on Elections (Comelec) that they are prohibited to campaign for any candidate in the forthcoming national and local elections on the ground that barangay officials should be “non-partisan”.
With due respect to Comelec, there is no law prohibiting any barangay officials from campaigning for or against a candidate in any election. What is described by law as “non-partisan” is the barangay election and not the barangay officials.
Thus, Section 38 of the Omnibus Election Code (OEC) says: “the barangay election shall be non-partisan” which means that the barangay candidates cannot be nominated by any political party during the barangay election. Clearly, the law does not say that the barangay officials shall be non-partisan. To reiterate, it is the “election” that is required to be “non-partisan”.
Only appointed civil service officers and employees, and not elected officials, are prohibited from engaging, directly or indirectly, in partisan political activities or any form of electioneering as provided under Section 2(4), Article IX-B of the 1987 Constitution.
This was clearly clarified by the Supreme Court in Quinto vs Comelec, February 22, 2010, in that such constitutional ban “does not cover elected officials notwithstanding the fact that the civil service embraces all branches and agencies of the government.
This is so because elected officials, by the nature of their office, engage in partisan political activities all year round, even outside the campaign period. Political partisanship is the inevitable essence of a political office, elective positions included.”
In a word, if the President and other national and elective officials can engage in partisan political activities, then the same can be done lawfully by barangay officials because they are also elected officials.
Atty. Romulo B Macalintal is a veteran election lawyer.