EDITORIAL - Undermining the vote
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - September 19, 2013 - 12:00am

Election violence tends to intensify in local races, and the barangay polls are as local as they get. Late last month an election officer was shot dead in Gapan, Nueva Ecija. Officials of the Commission on Elections said it had been established that the ambush of election officer Arsenio Reyes Jr. was related to the Oct. 28 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan polls. Reyes reportedly rejected a request of a prospective candidate to register elsewhere as a voter.

You wonder what it is about positions in the barangay that candidates are prepared to murder anyone who gets in their way. It can’t be the work; barangay personnel have numerous responsibilities including preventing squatting, assisting victims of domestic violence and supporting the police in maintaining peace and order.

For all those tasks, the pay is nothing to die or kill for. Barangay officials, however, are courted as grassroots political leaders by higher officials, enjoying the perks that typically go with such ties. Barangay watchmen often become part of the local political kingpin’s private army.

Barangays also get their own internal revenue allotments. One day soon authorities should review the disbursement rules for these public funds. The allotments per barangay may be too small to appear in the radar screens of state auditors. With the lessons now being learned from the pork barrel scam, however, auditors should also start looking into the utilization of public funds by the barangays.

The perks, modest as they may seem, can be significant for many barangay officials in the lower-income bracket. It’s not unusual for a barangay official to be the principal family breadwinner. In several areas, barangay officials have also been implicated in criminal activities such as drug trafficking and jueteng. When livelihoods and entitlements are threatened, violence becomes an attractive weapon.

Security officials must intensify efforts to prevent violence in the forthcoming elections, starting with stricter enforcement of gun laws. Violence is the worst way of undermining the vote. The nation must disabuse itself from the idea that violence is an intrinsic component of electoral exercises.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ARSENIO REYES JR. BARANGAY BARANGAYS GAPAN NUEVA ECIJA OFFICIALS OFFICIALS OF THE COMMISSION REYES SANGGUNIANG KABATAAN VIOLENCE
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