The 2023 Barangay and Sangguinang Kabataan Elections are done, and for most Filipinos that won’t be going on vacation leave or sick leave, it’s back to work for one day before another round of holidays come up.
Did you guys vote yesterday, or did you go on a trip or staycation to take advantage of the ridiculously long holiday break? I honestly can’t blame those who opted for the latter, as filing for only 2 leave days presents an opportunity to be away from work and life in this country that has been generally shitty, for up to two whole weekends.
To be honest, this is my first time to vote in the barangay elections. Perhaps it is because I already ran out of leave credits, so I’m stuck at home, or maybe I’ve seen the light as far as the value of barangay officials in our society is concerned. Anyway, this time I voted, so I’m giving myself a pat on the back for that. Whether or not I made the right choices, it doesn’t really matter, what is important is that I finally flexed that particular democratic muscle before it atrophied.
The barangay is the basic unit of government, and it makes sense to have good people in charge of it, because those officials are the one that we should come in contact with the most if ever we have any concerns regarding the neighborhood we live in. However, some of us obviously haven’t been giving it enough value and credit, because maybe we just see barangay officials as foot soldiers of the local political dynasties, whose primary purpose is to deliver the command votes come election day for the higher and more coveted seats of power.
Competent and decent barangay officials are the front liners of our neighborhoods. They make sure trash is collected, street lights are not busted, sidewalks are clear and safe, illegal parking is prevented, drainage and waterways are not clogged, vegetation is not overgrown, stray animals are controlled. They basically make sure that our communities are generally safe and functioning properly. If your community has a good set of barangay officials who serve as stewards, there should be no need to elevate any issue to the mayor.
On the flip side, if all you have in charge of your community are soldiers of some political dynasty, whose life purpose is to make their patrons happy, then your concerns will take a back seat to their political priorities. Although they will perform the bare minimum duties as barangay officials, their loyalty is to a person/family, and not the community.
This is why it is important to vote wisely, even if it is ‘just’ for the barangay elections, because if you come to think of it, it is these officials that most touch our daily lives. There is not much we can do about the national budget, that unnecessary Maharlika Investment Fund, or even the Panay-Negros-Guimaras bridge, but if we put in place a set of barangay officials that basically suck (or suck up to someone else), we are going to feel it directly in a community that doesn’t include us in its elected leader’s definition of progress.
Hopefully, we know enough about the people we voted for yesterday, to be confident that at the very least, we are putting our trust in public servants, and not in political soldiers or mercenaries..
This year, I finally voted in the barangay elections. Maybe next time, I’ll put my money where my mouth is as far as the barangay is concerned and put more effort into making my community better, while I am still capable of contributing to its betterment.
At the end of the day, the sad fact of life in the Philippines is it really won’t matter who wins the elections in our barangays. But if we want things to change, what will matter is whether residents remain apathetic when it comes to the concerns of the neighborhood and the performance of those who put themselves in a position to make a difference. If we make it clear to the winners of the elections that by winning, their work is just beginning, and that we, their constituents, whether we voted for them or not, will be demanding that they do their jobs properly, we might end up attracting more public servants than political soldiers the next time around.
If we can start the cycle of having standards and expectations from public officials from the barangay level where it is actually possible to have influence over the people we know and actually interact with, it is possible to end up with better barangays. If that can be done, then maybe we can trickle it up to the local, municipal, provincial, regional, and even national officials that we are ultimately responsible for putting in power.
That’s what makes the barangay elections important. Whether or not it actually happens is ultimately up to us.*