WHO says that barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections are non-partisan? The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has warned candidates of the forthcoming May 14 barangay and SK elections not to engage in partisan politics because these exercises are non-political in nature and violators may face charges for violating the Omnibus Election Code. Laughable. The notion that village and SK elections are non-partisan is only a perception, imagination and a misnomer.

Contrary to the provision of the Omnibus Election Code, which states that “barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections must be non-partisan and inexpensive,” the previous elections showed how the elections were politicized. And maybe the coming May 14 elections will show the same scenario. It is too expensive because candidates also practice vote-buying.

We will not go far. Here in Cebu City, who among the 80 barangay captains have remained neutral and independent? Meaning, those who did not affiliate themselves either to Bando Osmena Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) or Barug PDP-Laban or those remnants of Barug Team Rama? Please come forward and I will give you a reward.

If barangay officials are perceived to be non-partisan, why are almost all of them affiliated to different existing political parties in their localities? They even pledged allegiance. Let me cite the case of Cebu City Association of Barangay Council (ABC) president Philip Zafra. If he is a non-partisan, he should not affiliate himself with Barug Team Rama. He should remain independent.

Politicians and political parties need to support barangay candidates for their own political agenda in exchange of latter’s support during regular elections. Barangay officials become leaders of politicians during election time. In Cebu City, the “former political has-been” put up the Barangay Mayor’s Office (BMO) in barangays where barangay captains are allied with the opposition. And perhaps the same BMO heads will run this coming election and, for sure, with the support of the current administration. Isn’t that politicizing the barangay elections?

Section 384 of the Local Government Code of the Philippines, or Republic Act 7160, outlines the vitals of the barangay. As a basic political unit, the barangay serves as the primary planning and development 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, crystallized and considered and where disputes may be amicably settled.

It is in the barangay that the first attempt at an out-of-court settlement of a dispute is formally lodged. This is so because the Local Government Code recognizes and seeks to preserve the strong “bayanihan” (community) spirit and neighborliness, anchored on closely-knit immediate and extended family relations within the barangay.

But unfortunately, this “bayanihan” spirit has been constantly eroded by the current practice of electing barangay officials. Barangay elections have brought animosity among neighbors and even among family members within the community. In some areas, the wounds of division have remained for decades. And it has gotten worse over time as shown by reports of certain barangay election-related incidents like murders, physical injuries and other forms of violence. Moreover, the non-partisan character of the barangay has been illusory since the day of the elections. In reality, candidates for a position in the barangay would go to municipal, city and provincial and even national officials to solicit financial or material support.

Busa ayaw na mi ninyo patihua nga non-partisan nang barangay ug SK elections.