Vote wisely-A A +A
Sunday, October 27, 2013
A WIKIPEDIA entry describes the barangay as “the smallest administrative division in the country. It is the native Filipino term for a village, district or ward. In colloquial usage, the term often refers to an inner city neighborhood, a suburb or a suburban neighborhood. The word barangay originated from ‘balangay,’ a kind of boat used by a group of Austronesian peoples when they migrated to the Philippines.
Municipalities and cities are composed of barangays and they may further subdivide into smaller areas called purok, zone or sitio, which is a territorial enclave inside a barangay especially in rural areas.” As of September 2012, there were a total of 43,028 barangays throughout the country.
Today, voters will troop to the various polling precincts throughout the country to elect their barangay officials. Residents of Zamboanga City, which was the scene of intense fighting between government forces and members of the Moro National Liberation Front last month, and Bohol Province, which was devastated by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake last Oct. 15, though, will have to wait till Nov. 25.
Voters will elect their barangay captain/chairman and seven members of the barangay council or barangay kagawad. Don’t belittle the positions because barangay officials are given awesome powers under the Local Government Code (LGC).
Before the passage of the LGC, the barangay captain, or tenyente, only had limited power. He was only good for mediating cases among warring neighbors and couples.
And those who were mostly elected then were respected persons in the community. It didn’t matter if their educational background was not enough. They were the landlords and moneyed persons in the neighborhood. And their words were considered laws. If the barangay captain told a drunk person to stop beating his wife or he would have the latter arrested then the drunk person would obey.
During my younger days in our barangay in Olingan, Dipolog City, our barangay captain was my relative. He was the most respected person in our barangay because he owned vast agricultural lands and most of the people there were his tenants. Every time he heard cases among warring families, he required both parties to bring a chicken.
Unya ilang ihawon ang mga manok ug magdungan sila’g pangaon. Di magkauliay gyud sa maayong kabubut-on ang isig ka habig. Usa ka adlaw niana, natingala siya nga wala nay nag-away sa iyang mga lomolopyo kay wala na may nagpahusay. Busa iyang gipasusi kung ngano. Iya na lang nahibaw-an nga nahutdan na og manok ang iyang barangay busa wa nay nagpahusay.
But now the barangay captain plays the roles of an executive, legislative and judiciary. He implements laws. Being the presiding officer of the council, he is part of crafting the law. He mediates cases as chairman of the Lupon Tagapayapa. Business establishments cannot operate in a barangay without a barangay clearance. If there are petitions against an operation of a commercial establishment, the barangay has to hear and resolve it before issuing a clearance. And because of income, some barangays are quarreling over boundaries.
Barangay officials now receive honorariums and fat allowances. And because of the power of the barangay councils that’s where corruption starts. I heard barangay officials demanding commissions and SOPs from government projects. They also demand lobby money. A fellow Sun.Star columnist, who is a lawyer, told me several years ago that his client decided not to pursue his memorial park business in one of the barangays in Talisay City after majority of the barangay officials demanded lobby money from him following a petition from some residents who opposed the project, citing environmental concerns.
Even if today are just barangay elections, I hope voters will be wise enough to choose their barangay officials well. Don’t take today’s process for granted. Go out and vote wisely.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 28, 2013.