Juicy incentives await barangay officials

Rodolfo Razul, DILG regional director for Southeastern Mindanao, said economic perks are among the drawing points why the number of candidates for the barangay polls has increased.

In 1991, when governance was devolved to the local government units down to the barangays, the honorarium of a barangay kagawad was P600 and the barangay chair, P1,000 per month at the lowest.

"Now, officials in Davao City's upland barangays would receive at least P2,000 per kagawad and P3,000 per barangay chair," Merilou Limbaro, DILG city director, told MindaNews.

In the more urbanized areas Limbaro said the honorarium could be at least P3,000 for kagawads and P5,000 for barangay chair.

Limbaro said that aside from the cash incentives are the education and insurance benefits, among other things.

He said the barangay chair and kagawads could send four of their children to school for free in any state college or university. He said if the officials still have no children, they could also go to school for free.

Limbaro said the barangay government could now decide by the power of a resolution to augment their honorarium as their internal revenue allotment increases, subject to availability of funds.

Razul said it is possible that economics has caught up with the attention of the people in the barangay because the latter has enjoyed substantial gains in fiscal autonomy in the past years.

But Razul said more candidates could have also meant more people are responding to the public's need for representation. "The more the merrier," he said, referring to the choices people could make from the many candidates.

But many of the voters do not agree.

Lester Libarios, 36, of Bangkal, Talomo district, said many of the candidates in their area are not known to the public.

"The more the candidates, the more I get confused," Lucia Rodriguez, from Matina Aplaya, said as she was looking for her name in the voters' list.

Susan Aranguez, 38, who has not voted in the May elections, said she could not stand the candidates’ campaign barkers outside the precincts.

"I got so many leaflets from them, which all the more made this a difficult process. It is not helpful to have too many unknown candidates,” she complained.

Elizabeth Burgos, prefect of discipline of the Daniel R. Aguinaldo High School and a long time social studies teacher, said in the city setting people would have less chances of getting to know their community leaders.

"Voters seemed to veer away from voting also if the candidates are unknown," Burgos, an election clerk since 1978, said.

She said what the public does not understand is that government work at the barangay level provides them access to the wider scope of the city government.

"Both candidates and voters should do more to have a meeting of the minds in the community," she said.

"The barangay officials play an important role as they are at the frontlines at the grassroots level," she said. One factor why voters veer away from the polls, she noted, is that they know it should be non-partisan but in one way or another they think it still partisan.

Burgos said that is why some people think that "more candidates" meant the barangay office has become a new area for livelihood.

Razul said, however, that even if the economic reasons seem to have motivated more to jump into village politics, proper remuneration has been long overdue for barangay officials.