WORM’S EYEVIEW: Quick review of governance at primary level (Part II: The Barangay Assembly)

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/08 Oct.) — It cannot be overemphasized that this is the community’s parliament, the supreme governing body of the barangay. With an all-inclusive membership (all residents of voting age), it is literally a constituent assembly, the stockholders’ meeting of the barangay corporation.

It is supposed to convene at least twice yearly (Sec. 297, R.A. 7160). This means it may convene more than twice if desired, in accordance with the will of the constituents.

But the government interprets “at least twice” to mean “at most” and the DILG is the one that convenes it nationwide instead of its members, dictating also its agenda.

Thus the participation of the community is minimal, frustrating what is supposed to be a policy of autonomy or self-governance.

The Barangay Chairman (Punong Barangay)

There is no such official as a “barangay captain/capitana.” The formal title the law bestows upon the community’s leader is Punong Barangay or Chairman. Any other title is improper, especially if it conveys or connotes a role that suggests a contrasting function.

The term “Captain,” “Kapitan,” or “Kapitana” is a hang-over of colonial days when the barrios were headed by commanders of the Spanish Imperial Forces or the Guardia Civil. It is a military title denoting a superior who commands subordinates or soldiers inferior in rank. Thus it is inappropriate and misleading.

The barangay is a democracy, not a dictatorship. Its leader presides as first among equals only, not as commander or dictator. The people/constituents are his peers, not soldiers or subordinates to be commanded. Quite the contrary, he or she is their public servant and is answerable to them.

To insist on using captain or capitana is wrong and ill-advised. It encourages the barangay leader to behave like a military commander, which is inappropriate behavior towards sovereign citizens who are his/her Boss.

The Sangguniang Barangay (SB)

The barangay is a public corporation and this is the board of directors that manages affairs on behalf of the stockholders/constituents. It is the duty of the kagawads (including the Chairman) to be constantly attuned to the community’s desires and needs so that the ordinances they enact truly reflect the will and aspirations of the community as a whole.

SBs tend to ignore many of their duties and responsibilities, especially as regards consultations and public hearings, promoting/organizing cooperative enterprises, organizing lectures and educational programs, preventing and controlling squatters and mendicants, revenue generation and fund-raising, and so on.

Kagawads ought to strive to represent the views, ideas, and ideals of the constituents and not carry on as if they know everything. They are there to represent the people, not just themselves. They should regularly make the rounds of the neighborhoods.

The Barangay Constituents

Most residents seem clueless or uncaring towards their community, especially the most educated sectors and the well-off. Very few, if any, bother to attend meetings or show interest in local activities. Result: they deprive the barangay of their views, ideas, technical knowledge, and standards.

Their absence from the scene frustrates the functioning of direct democracy and self-governance. They ought to know that only in the barangay is it possible to have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people literally. At upper levels, it has to be representative democracy because it’s impractical to convene the entire town or city or province and hold deliberations. But it can be done in the barangay (except where the population has been left to balloon by neglectful officials).

But even if officials are negligent or worse, there are many things citizens can do to improve conditions and induce social progress. In fact, performing a citizen’s duty right in one’s neighborhood can help improve governance or develop a part of the nation’s territory. For example:

–To clean your barangay is to secure sanitation in that part of our country that you occupy.
–To beautify it is to make it attractive and pleasant for a visitor or tourist to visit, spend money
in it, and enhance its economy.
–To obey or enforce its ordinances is to make it orderly, civilized, and a secure corner of our
–To be productive is to help expand its economy and increase its contribution to GNP.
–To stop wrongdoing in one’s neighborhood is to reduce corruption at the base of our
Republic, making it stable, durable, and admirable.

Doing these things will also edify or shame the officials into doing their duties faithfully. (Is there a barangay anywhere that one can point to as orderly, lovely, and a delight to walk around in? One that isn’t maintained by the private sector?

Meanwhile, keep in mind that it’s the little things we do in the barangay that make up the big things in the nation. What happens in the Big Republic happens first in our small barangay republic.

So let’s do our share of nation-building right in our own barangay. After all, the national condition is merely a reflection of barangay conditions—all 42,028 barangays! (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Manny Valdehuesa writes from Cagayan de Oro and is the president and national convenor of Gising Barangay Movement Inc. He can be reached at valdehuesa@gmail.com.)