On the barangay elections

The barangay LGU has proved itself an unnecessary layer (hence costs!) to the government hierarchy. If it had been effective, barangays are by now vibrant places showcasing democratic ideals of bottom up governance. But no this has not happened.

Continued incapacity of this layer to lead and manage within the framework of decentralization and institutional change in general has it’s roots in the minimum requirements set by national government for candidate officials. Current requirements invite rather than filter out undesirable qualities.

Soon we’ll now have a new urban agenda, what level of leadership and management can we expect from elementary graduates?

Cities and human settlements that:

1. Fulfill their social function, including the social function of land, ensuring the full and progressive realization of the right to adequate housing as well as equal access for all to public goods and services, food security and nutrition, quality and accessible public spaces, livelihoods and decent work;
2. Are participatory and engender a sense of belonging and ownership among all their inhabitants, practice civic engagement and prioritize the collectively defined public interest, enhance social interactions and political participation, promote sociocultural expressions, embrace diversity, and foster social cohesion and safety, while meeting the needs of all inhabitants;
3. Empower all women and girls, especially through their full and equal participation in decisionmaking, equal employment opportunities and pay, and preventing and significantly reducing all forms of violence in private and public spaces;
4. Meet the challenges and opportunities for future growth, enhancing urban economies with high productivity and value added activities, harnessing productive local economies, including the formal and informal sectors, while promoting gender responsive planning and investment for safe and sustainable urban mobility systems that link people, places, services and economic opportunities;
5. Fulfill their territorial functions beyond the administrative boundaries, and act as hubs and drivers for balanced sustainable and integrated territorial development;
6. Promote disaster risk reduction and habitats that are resilient to natural and manmade hazards as well as protect, respect and value their ecosystems, natural habitats and biodiversity, and reduce their environmental impact.

And what to do when the only development activities proposed and approved in the barangay budget are construction of basketball courts and holding of basketball tournaments? Or, when the youth i.e. SK officials are utilized as errand boys and girls in barangay halls?

One would argue that those with the know how ought to teach those without or with less, sure, but then why have a government (accountable to the people) in the first place? Even if we say let’s be more tolerable of others’ “faults” considering that if circumstances were reversed i.e. they were me and I them I’d be spitting out the same nonsense, sure, we’ve been doing that, but tolerance cannot suppress time. Between now and tomorrow, things will happen and on current realities, badly.

I remember the movie Prayers for Bobby. A true story about the layers of victimization in the 70s: Bobby finally tells his family he’s gay. His mother believes it is the infliction of the devil. She prays over him every night. She tells Bobby to also do so. As we now know being gay is not the devil’s infliction nor can it be prayed away. When Bobby visits her at her office, she pretends she’s not his. Lonely and desperate, Bobby, 20 at the time, committed suicide. The mother was shocked but it was the pain from loss which led to her transformation. She realized she was as much a victim of the rigid beliefs and narrow teachings of her time as her son was of hers. She became an iconic activist for gay rights, enjoining parents to understand and accept their children’s homosexuality.

The lesson inferred there is why wait for people to die, habitats to disappear, mountains to collapse, nothing good left for our children and children’s children to inherit before we finally do something about governance? This is the 21st century when so much knowledge and technology are out there for our taking.

What therefore is that effective structural arrangement at this level? Lessons pointing to this should have manifested decades after decentralization was first implemenented, and Congress should’ve discussed these long before this year’s barangay and SK elections. It has not as it is. Some weeks ago, Comelec reared it’s head into the picture to recommend for postponement of barangay elections “because of election fatigue” to which members of Congress opined it would indeed be a “practical” move.

How is a citizen’s exercise of her right to elect the people who will ruin her life or not constitute election fatigue? For Comelec to say this, shame really! And how is extending the term of the current roster of barangay officials, the majority of whom have failed to deliver, practical? You’d think if BLGUs are hopeless Congress at least will put sanity back by having interim structures in place while it mulls over the fate of barangay governance, but nothing.

On young people’s lips these days is this gayspeak- pak ganern! (Rough translation: and…there it is!) The Filipino’s life is run on this easy and simple rhythm. Snap! and hallowed halls turn into bullfight rings! Snap! and the constitution’s gone! Snap! and regions are rearranged! Snap! and your property’s taken! Snap! Snap! Pak! Pak! Ganern! Ganern! Our language so’s our nation.

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