(This was originally written on the 6th of October 2013 in Manila, about three weeks before the barangay elections that time. I found this article together with all my other files in an old USB. I edited several words to fit in time).
Barangay elections give me time to reflect on the significance of barangay governance as a substantial foundation of leadership in our present-day society. The barangay government is the cornerstone of government leadership and management. The “barangay”, as the basic political unit of our society, has the most significant role in nation-building and community development. Nevertheless, such role and potential is usually untapped and taken for granted in the standpoint of local development en route for a greater national advancement.
Development should be viewed in the stance of micro-level towards the macro-level perspective, a philosophy of natural development from the embryo to a well-grown organism – a development in a centrifugal configuration instead of centripetal pattern. Nonetheless, as different terms were used in the past, there is only one thing in common when it comes to their role; barangay has the greatest role in the development of the community since it has the grasp of what the particular group of people needs. In a nutshell, it has a direct link and contact with the grassroots – its own people in the countryside.
Hence, barangay is a baseline community where collective views of people were culled out from their own experiences and needs which might be best catalysts for development process in their very own locality.
The Role of the Barangay. Local Government Code of the Philippines or the Republic Act (R.A.) 7160 of 1991 states the role of the Barangay (Section 385): 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, crystalized and considered, and where disputes may be amicably settled.
In view of the above role, it could be emulated that development plans must be based in this level as the much uncomplicated political unit of our society whilst expounding its enormity for developmental course. Also, as the basic implementing unit of the government, it is equitable that barangays should have the best leaders the country must have to discharge such great undertakings. Barangays are the best venue to disseminate information of national concerns such as laws affecting particular locality and the citizenry. Laws might be converted to local ordinances as the best approach and avenue to educate the public and gauge the level of responsiveness of the community.
Invest with our Barangay Leaders. The government must invest in giving proper trainings to our barangay leaders to tap their skills and potentials, capabilities and competencies as partners of the government in the national development goal. Training program must suit the needs of the specific locality particularly in the countryside. It is noteworthy that planning is a critical stage of social development processes that must be taken seriously. Barangay resources might be exploited and corruptions in any form might emerge given the fact that the Punong-Barangay (Barangay Captain) has the triune function as the executive, legislative and judicial head of the community.
Barefooted principle of leadership is sensible as barangay leaders are grounded or have direct contact with their constituents. Barangay must be the training ground for service excellence and not a hub for corrupt practices. The government must intensify project and budget management trainings to our barangay leaders to be efficient and competent agents of social development on the road to national progress.
IRA of the Barangay and the PDAF. The internal revenue allotment (IRA) is the main source of the barangay budget. It was based on the 40% of the national internal revenue taxes as Bureau of Internal Revenue submits certification of collections to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM). From that portion, only 20% is allotted for barangays, computed based on population, land area and equal sharing. Basically, this allotment is being released every quarter of the year. Nonetheless, its annual and supplemental budget is being steered by the barangay budgetary system guide.
In the contrary, the known pork barrel, Countryside Development Fund (CDF) in the time of the late President Corazon C. Aquino, renamed as the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) during the administration of former President Joseph E. Estrada, has its noble purpose for the development of the poor communities in the countryside. However, in the course of financial flow to the beneficiary-communities, an excruciating reality about its distribution was unveiled. Billions of pesos through this fund were misused and wasted in spite of the deafening call for the needs of basic social services in the rural communities. This only means that, PDAF did not serve its purpose because of the corrupt practices and conspiracy of the chosen leaders who claimed to be advocates of the Filipino wellbeing.
Truthfully, lawmakers must be wary of their function as legislators and not executives of government projects and programs. The PDAF and other funds intended for local development, however, must be channeled to the barangays to finance projects and social services having direct beneficial impact to barangay constituents.
Barangay Election. Again and again, a test of our credibility as conscientious citizens to select the best aspirants to lead us, not to manipulate us. Our right to suffrage, as a practice of democracy, stretches our favor to those who deserves the trust of the community, gives us freedom to choose those who really has the heart for the common “tao”, has the courage to render social services among their constituents and uphold the democratic way of life.
There are about 42,028 barangays in the entire country based on the records of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB). This number also construe with the number of the Punong-Barangays around the country, the bloodline of the Philippine political leadership which should espouse egalitarianism. The total number of our barangay leaders is a great force to take part in the actualization of the social reform and development the country envisions.
Challenges and Opportunities. The greatest challenge for our people, all over again, is to judiciously elect leaders with great potentials to lead and to serve with passion, sincerity and integrity. Barangay constituents must learn to treasure one’s vote rationalizing of what we wanted for our nation. It starts from this simple yet significant election process. This entails our decision – a choice of what future we sought to be.
On the other hand, empowering our barangay government and recognizing its greatest role in the local governance and inclusiveness in social development process, an enormous stride in the national development program could be achieved. As barangays are irrefutable bloodlines for efficient channeling of basic social services, it is evenhanded too, fully equip our leaders in the forefront of leadership and portal of good governance. This would be both a challenge and an opportunity for our people and present leaders to ponder.