The Barangay

AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman (The Philippine Star) - May 21, 2018 - 12:00am

Last week was the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections. Fifty-five million registered voters in the 42,044 barangays all over the country elected a barangay chairman, 7 councilors, 1 SK chairperson, and 7 SK councilors. According to the AFP and PNP, apart from the slaying of former representative Eufranio Eriguel and his two bodyguards in Agoo, La Union; the killing of four persons in Basilan; and the arrest of 1,350 persons for various violations – vote buying, liquor ban, possession of firearms, explosives and bladed weapons the election was generally peaceful. The PNP-NEMAC report showed that from April 14-May 14, total dead comprised 18 elected government officials, four candidates, three former officials, two supporters and six civilians.

Alleged vote-buying was reported in some Abra towns, San Rafael in Bulacan, Antipolo City and 17 cities in Metro Manila including Quezon City and Marikina. So what else is new?

Anyway, who are these people elected into office? What powers do they have? Are they bound to make or break our communities? According to the Comelec, the barangay chairman and councilor must be: a citizen of the Philippines; a registered voter in the barangay; a resident therein for at least one year immediately preceding the day of elections; able to read and write in Filipino or any other local language or dialect; and at least 18 years of age on election day.

For the Sangguniang Kabataan council, aspirants must be: a citizen of the Philippines; a qualified voter of the Katipunan ng Kabataan; a resident of the barangay for not less than one year immediately preceding the day of elections; at least 18 years but not more than 24 years of age on the day of the elections; able to read and write in Filipino, English, or the local dialect; must not be related within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity to any incumbent elected national official or to any incumbent elected regional, provincial, city, municipal, or barangay official in the locality where the aspirant seeks to be elected; and must not have been convicted by final judgement of any crime involving moral turpitude.

My former kasambahay called me a few weeks before the election. She asked me to support her as she was going to run for the Barangay Chairman position in her barangay. I was quite surprised and alarmed. She was a good housekeeper but I don’t think she would be able to make sound judgements and decisions for her barangay. I suddenly became very worried on the present and future state of our country in the hands of people who are not qualified nor have the knowledge to run the government. Not to mention the ability to say “yes” or “no” when being dictated upon by the corrupt LGU officials.

I think our lawmakers should elevate the qualifications of the officials in the local units. Weak barangay chairmen along with their councilors can easily breed corruption. I remember two Barangay Chairmen in Zambales who follow their mayors blindly. They are weak and cannot stand for what is right. They continue to intimidate the local folk in the areas. And this is the reality around the country.

The Philippine Constitution is very clear on the role of the Barangay but the educational attainment of many barangay officials sad to say, will not allow them to understand their function and their power. Many times, they are over-ruled or overpowered by their mayors or other officers in the municipalites. Worst they become puppets or figureheads of those in power.

According to the Local Government Code of the Philippines: SEC. 384. Role of the Barangay. – As the basic political unit, the barangay serves as the primary planning and implementing unit of government policies, plans, programs, projects, and activities in the community, and as a forum wherein the collective views of the people may be expressed, crystallized and considered, and where disputes may be amicably settled.

SEC. 389. Chief Executive: Powers, Duties, and Functions. – (a) The punong barangay, as the chief executive of the barangay government, shall exercise such powers and perform such duties and functions, as provided by this Code and other laws; (b) For efficient, effective and economical governance, the purpose of which is the general welfare of the barangay and its inhabitants pursuant to Section 16 of this Code, the punong barangay shall: (1) Enforce all laws and ordinances which are applicable within the barangay; (2) Negotiate, enter into, and sign contracts for and in behalf of the barangay, upon authorization of the sangguniang barangay; (3) Maintain public order in the barangay and, in pursuance thereof, assist the city or municipal mayor and the sangguniang members in the performance of their duties and functions; (4) Call and preside over the sessions of the sangguniang barangay and the barangay assembly, and vote only to break a tie; (5) Upon approval by a majority of all the members of the sangguniang barangay, appoint or replace the barangay treasurer, the barangay secretary, and other appointive barangay officials; (6) Organize and lead an emergency group whenever the same may be necessary for the maintenance of peace and order or on occasions of emergency or calamity within the barangay; (7) In coordination with the barangay development council, prepare the annual executive and supplemental budgets of the barangay; (8) Approve vouchers relating to the disbursement of barangay funds; (9) Enforce laws and regulations relating to pollution control and protection of the environment; (10) Administer the operation of the Katarungang Pambarangay in accordance with the provisions of this Code; (11) Exercise general supervision over the activities of the sangguniang kabataan; (12) Ensure the delivery of basic services as mandated under Section 17 of this Code; (13) Conduct an annual palarong barangay which shall feature traditional sports and disciplines included in national and international games, in coordination with the Department of Education, Culture and Sports; (14) Promote the general welfare of the barangay; (15) Exercise such other powers and perform such other duties and functions as may be prescribed by law or ordinance. (b) In the performance of his peace and order functions, the punong barangay shall be entitled to possess and carry the necessary firearm within his territorial jurisdiction, subject to appropriate rules and regulations.

Don’t get me wrong, the presence of a barangay unit is a very promising and ideal undertaking for the country. But when the essential power is not used as it should be, then, it will be a very big waste for the country. As I said earlier, the barangay can make or break a community. The work of the barangay officials is supposed to hit the core of every community – they are there to assist, to serve, to protect and preserve it. If they are not functioning right, then it would mean the death of the community.

Every member of a barangay must feel that they are well taken cared of; must feel safe and protected; must see that law and order is enforced; must feel respected; and must feel good – ultimately happy. But the community must also do their part in keeping a watchful eye and making sure their officials are doing the job right.

Here is hoping and wishing the best to every barangay!

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