CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/11 April) — Apart from being just a mere slogan, it could also be a vision and a mission.
It could be a vision of propriety and righteousness in all dealings. And it can be a mission for everyone to ensure a straightforward direction for social, economic, and political development in our society.
But no one has seen fit to limn its outlines for our edification. I have yet to see it defined in terms of its essential aspects, which is too bad because it can be useful in many ways at multiple levels.
For instance, it’s been four years already, and this administration has passed up every opportunity to let every Filipino—and every barangay, for that matter—define, translate, or interpret said slogan for the purposes of their community and society at large, so it will integrate into our value system.
One such opportunity was last March 29, the day synchronized meetings of the Barangay Assembly was decreed by Presidential Proclamation.
But the event came and went with seemingly no impact or significance, local or national.
This Assembly involves every one of the nation’s 42,078 barangay components. And every sovereign citizen living in them (except minors aged 14 and below) is called upon to participate.
What can People Power comprising two-thirds or even one-half of 100 million Filipinos do to refurbish the façade of our politics and economics?
Collectively, that’s the minimum mega-voltage Barangay Assembly meetings generate nationwide every time synchronized meetings take place.
The aggregate impact of People Power nationwide (mobilized in every barangay, each one focused on its own neighborhoods, not dispersed citywide and beyond) would be tremendous.
If every barangay focuses on its own affairs, gets its act together, enforces the laws, securing, beautifying, putting its premises in order every so often, what difference it would make on our society and environment (physical, economic, cultural)!
Poverty would be less, livelihood would be more, and the gross national happiness would be high—the result of thinking together, addressing local issues, tapping the wisdom of every barangay’s best and brightest, acting in concert, solving neighborhood problems.
The SWOT Approach
Village problems grow to elephantine scale when aggregated at town or city levels; but they cease to be problems if addressed at source in the barangay by the folks themselves.
What hasn’t been tried is, convening same day, the 42,000+ barangays meet to take stock of their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
A lot of the problems faced by our republic at grassroots level would be resolved by the sovereign citizens themselves. But we’ve missed the opportunity already.
Nonetheless, it’s worth considering what positive development would result if every one of the barangays up and down our archipelago were to define and deploy their strengths, technologies, and other resources for their own purposes—especially for the poor or disadvantaged in their neighborhoods.
Similarly, what good would result if every barangay community pinpoints its weaknesses, shortcomings, and gaps in terms of human capability, financial capacity, equity of its stakeholders?
An Economic Dynamo
Suppose every Barangay Assembly lists down the local opportunities that can be developed and made to work for the community’s wellbeing? Surely there are undeveloped assets, vacant or under-utilized lands, talents and skills, other prospects that can produce revenues, attract investments, and maybe create jobs, livelihood, and better quality of life.
Barangay folks must be made aware of how increasing the Gross Barangay Product can effectively expand the national economy, or the GDP/GNP. Why should economic development be relegated to macro economists, planners, and technocrats at the top? We need the bottom-up approach—pinatubo,not pinatulo!
Secure the Premises
No less important, how about having the barangay undertake a simple accounting of threats and potential dangers that face its neighborhoods—with the view to their mitigation or eradication using purely local techniques and resources?
Threats thrive in obscure corners, seedy slums, and neglected portions of the community. Intruders and malicious operators nest in them, away from prying eyes. Ignore or leave them unnoticed, and you could wake one morning to discover a shabu laboratory, a drug-pushers’ den, or terrorists and gunrunners in your midst.
It can’t all be a matter for the police and military.
Citizens need to play a part in law enforcement, sensitive to goings-on and unusual movements in the neighborhood.
It pays to keep in mind that all threats originate locally and should be identified as they arise. It is when they are unrecognized or left to chance that they creep into other neighborhoods and barangays till they become generalized.
Checking periodically, sharing notes with fellow Barangay Assembly members, is the way to keep small threats from growing large and unmanageable. Thus, do attend your assemblies and participate in the proceedings!
Manny among others is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific, secretary-general of Southeast Asian Publishers Association, director at development academy of Philippines, member of Philippine Mission to the United Nations, vice chair of Local Government Academy, member of the Cory Government’s Peace Panel, and PPI-UNICEF awardee for outstanding columnist. firstname.lastname@example.org