CEBU City Mayor Tomas Osmeña in 2016 said the reason for creating the Barangay Mayor’s Office (BMO) was that some barangays usually leave out opponents in the delivery of basic services. “That’s a natural,” he said, “so the BMO will be there so that no one is left behind.”
He added, “I will not allow the majority to bully the minority whether youth or whether they are the minority in politics. I’m the father of everybody, supposed to be. Of course, they want to fight me. I know how to fight also.”
No one, of course, was too naive to buy the mayor’s explanation. The BMO was a mechanism to bypass opposition officials in the barangays. It served as the mayor’s direct reach to the villages.
The opposition councilors in that same year raised the legality of the BMO with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), which replied that the BMO did not exist as the mayor merely created the Barangay Disaster Control Center (BDCC) through Executive Order 5.
The BDCC, said the DILG, merely serves as an extension of the Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (CCDRRMO), and it does not conflict with the functions, responsibilities and duties of the barangay.
But the BMO was a different insect. Then Association of Barangay Councils president Philip Zafra cried foul: “Nag-ilis og pangan pero pareho gihapon na. Apil gihapon sila og distribute sa mga tambal. Nganong manaod pud sila og suga? Ingon ana ba (They changed the name but it is still the same. They also distributed medicines, installed lights. Something like that).”
The BMO performed functions beyond its scope as disaster office extension. It was eventualy tasked to implement the mayor’s supposed Long Life Medical Assistance Program, which was to distribute medicines in the villages.
The BMO deployed “health workers” who were not working under the City Health Office and who were, as then Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella said, “not qualified” to distribute the medicines.
But now that Mayor-elect Labella is in charge, the BMO will finally see its end.
“At the very outset, it is really our position that this barangay mayor’s office is not provided under the Local Government Code. It is not in accordance with the existing law and rules. We will just have to follow what is in the law,” Labella told SunStar Cebu in a Facebook live interview.
He is instead looking at having liaison officers who will serve as a bridge between the villages and the city without usurping the functions of barangay officials.