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Occena v. COMELEC, 127 SCRA 404 (1985)
Samuel C. Occena filed a petition for prohibition seeking that sections 4 and 22 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 222, otherwise known as the Barangay Election Act of 1982, be declared as unconstitutional insofar as it prohibits any candidate in the Barangay election of 17 May 1982 "from representing or allowing himself to be represented as a candidate of any political party or prohibits a political party, political group, political committee from intervening in the nomination of a candidate in the barangay election or in the filing of his certificate of candidacy, or giving aid or support directly or indirectly, material or otherwise, favorable to or against his campaign for election." On this basis, it is also prayed that "judgment be rendered declaring the 1982 Barangay elections null and void ab initio, for being unconstitutional, and directing the holding of new barangay elections without any ban on the involvement of political parties, political committees, political organizations and other political group."
Whether the ban on the intervention of political parties in the election of barangay officials is violative of the constitutional guarantee of the right to form associations and societies for purposes not contrary to law.
The right to form associations or societies for purposes not contrary to law is neither absolute nor illimitable; it is always subject to the pervasive and dominant police power of the state and may constitutionally be regulated or curtailed to serve appropriate and important public interests (Gonzales vs. Comelec, 27 SCRA 835; Imbong vs. Comelec, 35 SCRA 28). Whether a restriction imposed is constitutionally permissible or not depends upon the circumstances of each case. Examining Section 4 of the Barangay Election Act of 1982, the right to organize is intact. Political parties may freely be formed although there is a restriction on their activities, i.e., their intervention in the election of barangay officials on 17 May 1982 is proscribed. But the ban is narrow, not total. It operates only on concerted or group action of political parties. Members of political and kindred organizations, acting individually, may intervene in the barangay election. As the law says: "Nothing (therein) shall be construed as in any manner affecting or constituting an impairment of the freedom of individuals to support or oppose any candidate for any barangay office." Moreover, members of the family of a candidate within the fourth civil degree of consanguinity or affinity as well as the personal campaign staff of a candidate (not more than 1 for every 100 registered voters in his barangay) can engage in individual or group action to promote the election of their candidate. There are reasons for insulating the barangay from the divisive and debilitating effects of a partisan political campaign. The Barangay Captain and the Barangay Council, apart from their legislative and consultative powers, also act as an agency for neutral community action such as the distribution of basic foodstuff and as an instrument in conducting plebiscites and referenda. The Barangay Captain, together with the members of the Lupon Tagapayapa appointed by him, exercises administrative supervision over the barangay conciliation panels in the latter's work of settling local disputes. The Barangay Captain himself settles or helps settle local controversies within the barangay either through mediation or arbitration. It would definitely enhance the objective and impartial discharge of their duties for barangay officials to be shielded from political party loyalty. In fine, the ban against the participation of political parties in the barangay election is an appropriate legislative response to the unwholesome effects of partisan bias in the impartial discharge of the duties imposed on the barangay and its officials as the basic unit of our political and social structure.
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