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Barangay system

Presumptive Speaker of the House Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, the cousin of president-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr., has said that he and his colleagues are looking to postpone yet again the barangay elections in December, ostensibly to save PhP 8B in funds that could be used for the country’s pandemic response that has unfortunately been characterized by the great Pharmally scam.

The last barangay elections were held in May of 2018. That is four years ago. Before that, it was held in 2013, leaving a 5-year gap between those elections. Like most local officials who are saddled with an inefficient 3-year term of office, barangay elections should ideally be held every three years. If the barangay elections are postponed again, the current set of barangay officials will have held their post for 5 years again.

That extended term of public office is fine and dandy if your barangay has a great set of officials, but for those who are stuck with mediocre ones (which should be the norm in a country where mediocrity has been normalized), postponed elections which result in extended terms of office aren’t benefitting anyone.

The only reason why our leaders can afford to postpone barangay elections is obvious. These people who like to think they are on top of the food chain and wield all the power and influence don’t think that barangay officials matter.

However, if you come to think of it, the political bigwigs are probably not the only ones who look down on barangays. Most regular folk don’t care about their barangay officials and most likely don’t even bother participating in such elections. This attitude towards the barangay, which is the basic unit of governance, makes it easy for most of us to ignore it and see it as inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.

This is a perspective that we have to change because if you come to think of it, most of us should be heavily invested in our barangays as it is the unit of government that we should feel the most.

If a barangay is well run, its residents should feel it because it has clean and safe public spaces such as roads and sidewalks. Trash is sorted properly and picked up regularly. Street lights are not busted, paths are not overgrown with weeds. Sidewalks and roads are kept clear of obstructions such as illegal vendors and parking by officials who don’t allow the situation get out of hand, and if your barangay officials really care, indiscriminate dog pooping would not be allowed.

Noisy neighbors blasting vidoeke sessions would be shushed. Barangay facilities such as day care centers, playgrounds, townhalls, gymnasiums or covered courts would be well maintained, accessible and available. Sidewalks and parking areas could be regulated and disciplined and the public can win back those spaces that apathetic barangay officials have allowed to be taken over. Our communities can be better than a gated village if the elected leader of our homeowner’s association is a good person. For those dreaming of walkable communities, a barangay captain with the same vision and the political will can start that transformation on that level.

If we can somehow put a set of visionary and capable barangay captains in place in our communities, they’d probably do a better job at making things better and make a more tangible impact on our lives than a mediocre mayor could.

That is why I’m hoping that the December 2022 barangay elections are not postponed again this time. Because if we can somehow convince the right people to run for that “lowly” office, it might not matter so much who the people on top of the food chain are. Electing good people into positions of responsibility that can directly affect us can be a good experience for our youth who need to see democracy working for them. A couple of thousand truly qualified and capable barangay captains, preferably with real university degrees and real-world experience in managing an organization, could probably do more good for their communities and collectively, the country, than a mediocre and unqualified president.

A couple of articles ago, I breached the idea of gunning for a barangay post if I could find enough like-minded people to run with. I was just spit balling then, but now that I’ve given it a little more thought, I might take that thought seriously if I can be somehow assured that enough of like-minded people are willing join my little social transformation experiment.

What do potential barangay officials think? Any takers? We’ve got less than 6 months to make a move.*

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