CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 16 Oct) – With elections just around the corner, it’s important to review the performance of the current (or outgoing) administration of the barangay. Did it serve the community well? It’s been three years since it was elected in October 2010. How did your community benefit from its service?
Those who served the longest, in what way did the community benefit from them? What did they accomplish or contribute? Did their long service produce improvements? If not, should they be made to step aside and give others a chance to serve?
It is good to replenish the public service with fresh faces and fresh energy. It is wrong to allow anyone or any family to monopolize public offices.
To help you assess your government’s performance, it may help to prepare a checklist on the following.
Mandates, Development Planning
From 2010 to date, to what extent did the incumbent administration pursue its mandates—to empower the people, to implement the laws, to promote democracy and self-governance, to improve community wellbeing?
Does the barangay have a comprehensive development plan? Is it operative? Did it serve as the framework or reference point for proposed plans, projects, and programs?
How about the barangay’s Annual Investment Plan? Was it implemented? Did it perform as planned? What was achieved; how much remains undone?
These are not trivial matters; these are the determinants of good or bad governance. Everyone in the community should dwell on these matters because the common good and the people’s quality of life are at stake. It matters a lot whether the officials performed these mandates satisfactorily or not.
Was there an active effort to bring the different sectors of the community together, promoting and facilitating unity and cooperation? Or was there too much politics, favoritism, or partisanship? Officials are duty-bound to promote harmony and solidarity and avoid partisan politics.
Citizens have an essential role in fulfilling whatever is planned for the community, a role that is meant to enhance the spirit of autonomy and self-governance. Were there efforts to involve them at the preparatory or implementation stage? Individual citizens, corporate citizens, sectoral groups of the barangay? Can your barangay be said to be self-governing?
During its Barangay Assemblies, were the community’s concerns taken up or placed on the agenda? Were the people given ample time to discuss or deliberate and pass resolutions? Barangay officials often make the mistake of treating the assembly as theirs to monopolize and manipulate. In doing so they insult the people and take them for granted. They forget that this is the people’s assembly, that the officials should refrain from grandstanding so the people will have maximum opportunity to air their views. What notable resolutions were passed by the Assembly during the past three years? What ordinances were referred to the Sanggunian for enactment?
What measures were taken to make the barangay government transparent and accountable? Were the people informed of proposed programs or projects passed or approved?
Was the powerful Barangay Assembly involved in crafting appropriate policies and ordinances for the Sangguniang Barangay to enact? Were the people consulted, public hearings held? Or did the officials simply do whatever they liked? If they didn’t bother to consult, it was bad governance.
Was the Barangay Development Council operative? Was it active in preparing development plans and investment plans? Was the Council properly organized or constituted in accordance with the Local Government Code—to ensure that it would have a multi-sectoral membership?
Did the Council organize seminars and lectures on matters of interest to the community? Were there forums or public discussions on important issues? Did the officials reach out to encourage the different sectors or professional circles to contribute to local development? Did the Council create functional committees to enable the different sectors and interest groups to participate effectively and contribute their ideas to the barangay’s development planning process?
Such ideas are the small things in the barangay that make up the big things and produce impact upon the nation. Developing and building the nation from the barangay upward is the best development strategy. That’s why barangay people must be mobilized—especially its people of means and talent or creativity, so they can contribute in a real way to nation-building.
There’s nothing much that barangay people can do about the national situation or about problems at macro level except to leverage their sovereign votes below to compel the officials above to adopt reforms. The real tasks for barangay folks lie in their neighborhoods—to develop the community’s assets and make them productive.
Knowledge, Public Information
Knowledge is power. Informed or knowledgeable barangay folks make democracy powerful. Does the barangay government inform the people or make them aware of the income or revenues generated by the community? Are the constituents aware of the expenses incurred or spent on their behalf. Do they have access to the Barangay’s statement of income and expenditures (which are supposed to be posted in prominent places of the community)?
During the last Barangay Assembly, was there a report on the activities, programs, projects, and finances of the barangay? Was the report discussed and openly deliberated? Can it be said that the people are well-informed of the status of their money? If not, then something is very wrong.
The governing process of the barangay is a direct democracy, and the people are sovereign citizens. Anyone can pose questions directly; everyone is entitled to an answer. This is the essence of democratic governance. It is very important for this democratic system to be observed or honored at the grassroots.
True State of the Nation
It’s in the barangay neighborhood that the true state of the nation can be appreciated or felt. It is there that one can find the concrete details of poverty, joblessness, or criminality. It’s also there that one finds the pleasing aspects of our society: the charming customs and traditions, our warm hospitality and friendliness, our art forms and unique crafts, the products of Filipino excellence and genius.
We must rely on Barangay citizens to honor and uphold what’s best and excellent in our culture and discard what’s ugly and corrupt. That’s the best way to advance the national interest.
A developed nation can arise only out of developed communities. And if a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, can our Republic be stronger than its weakest barangay? As the barangay is, so is the Republic.
Use your Best Judgment
So please review the work of your barangay officials. Determine to what extent they have served the common good. And on election day, make a judgment on who can best bring progress and pride to your community.
No less important, do not allow individuals or families to monopolize choice positions. Selfish candidates should have no place in the public service; they will only take advantage of the community and exploit its resources. If you tolerate abuse or corruption in your barangay, it will result in the triumph of abuse and corruption—not only in your barangay but in the nation.
One must never forget that officials on all levels of our government are elected by the people of the barangay, whose votes are also cast in the precincts of the barangay. If your officials are abusive and corrupt, they will influence your neighbors to vote for the abusers and corruptors of our society!
(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 firstname.lastname@example.org.)