CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 6 Aug) – Three years ago, the people of Barangay Milagrosa in Quezon City’s Project 4 District decided to act because their leaders would not even after repeated urging. The citizens had been agitating for an ordinance to control squatting, drug dealing, and related violations such as vagrancy in their neighborhoods. But the officials ignored their pleas, acting as if they didn’t hear or care. For some reason, they didn’t take the people, their Boss, seriously.
So the citizens consulted a member of the Gising Barangay Movement (GBM) on what to do. The GBM chapter in Cubao advised them to make use of a little known power reserved to citizens: the Power of Initiative. It is a variation of People Power, designed for constituents who are fed up with corruption, inaction, or incompetence and want to effect change through direct action.
The Power of Initiative is meant to enable constituents to propose a policy or ordinance and have it voted directly by the sovereign community – meaning, without help, action, or intervention by any politician or outside agency. It is a little-known and little-appreciated instrument of direct democracy. It enables citizens to go over the heads of their officials and pass legislation or adopt a policy by themselves.
In the case at hand, the citizens of Barangay Milagrosa in Project 4 crafted a very simple ordinance that reflected their desire for order, decency, and discipline in their neighborhoods.
Skirting their unresponsive Punong Barangay and the Kagawads in the sanggunian, they drew up the petition and went to the Comelec for acknowledgment and certification of its validity. To their surprise, the Comelec not only acknowledged it, it declared the proposition valid in substance and form, enough to trigger off a vote in the community.
Worded very simply and directly to the point, the petition read: “Whereas it is the desire of our community to enforce law and order and stop criminality, it shall be a strict policy of Barangay Milagrosa to discourage informal settlers from living in any of its neighborhoods. Unauthorized occupation of any public or private land is prohibited. And the barangay government must see that this is enforced.”
In preparing and filing the petition, they invoked Articles 133-149 of the Rules and Regulations Implementing the Local Government Code of 1991 (R.A. 7160), which prescribe the steps to be taken. Voting on the proposition took place 30 days later, on May 10, 2009, during which it received the support of the majority.
It was the first ordinance to be passed by direct citizen action in a barangay, a fine example of how a community can set a rule or standard or norm for administering its neighborhoods. It illustrated what sovereign citizens can do if they unite to challenge or override a recalcitrant government or its neglectful officials.
Such initiative is a powerful instrument for asserting the popular will. If done where justified and called for, the Power of Initiative teaches a lesson to unresponsive officials and make them behave as they should – namely, as SERVANTS OF THE PEOPLE and not as presumptuous oligarchs that impose their will upon the citizenry.
Constituents of the barangay, or even of the municipality, city, or province ought to be familiarized with this simple procedure and get ample practice in the ways of direct democracy – which is not only ordained and provided for by the Local Government Code, but is essential for the maturation of autonomy in our badly-performing political system.
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Manny Valdehuesa is the president and national convenor of Gising Barangay Movement Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)