LET me reiterate that today’s barangay election is not to be taken for granted. Being the smallest geographical unit in governance, the barangay is the appropriate level for radical changes that the country need.
It is easy to choose the candidate who deserves to be elected in rural areas where residents are familiar with each other. But in urban centers like Metro Manila where one may not even know who lives next door, voting for the best of the contenders is difficult.
Perhaps we should just look around our neighborhood and take note if basic services like garbage collection are attended to. Are barangay public markets clean or muddy and stinky? Do pickpockets and other petty criminals lurk on the streets? If hawkers and beggars litter the sidewalks, then the sitting (probably sleeping-on-the-job) barangay officials don’t deserve to stay a day longer in office.
Check the orderliness of the barangay hall in your area. Is it clean? Are people working there attentive, courteous and efficient?
Has the barangay official acquired properties during his incumbency without visible means of additional income? Does the official mingle with ordinary folks and consult them on their problems?
The choice is ours, just like in any other election. If we want change, let us choose leaders who have shown sincerity and track record in delivering their promises. If we want to remain in the doldrums, afraid to walk the streets during the wee hours, then keep the incompetents in their positions.
Let me share with you a story about a barangay official in a developing city in Southern Tagalog. He is not simply a barangay official, but the chairman who is seeking re-election in today’s balloting. He is a classic example of an abusive official who may even seek higher office because of his political padrinos in the province.
Allow me to keep the official nameless, but his recent actions make him unfit as a public servant. He should even spend time in jail for brazenly using his position to extort money from a foreign investor.
Let’s just call him Kapitan Bayawak (monitor lizard). I was tempted to call him Kapitan Buwaya (crocodile) but considering that he is just starting out and not yet in the big league, I will settle for Kapitan Bayawak for now.
Kapitan Bayawak is still relatively young—in his early 40s, —but he seems to have learned the corrupt ways of the old early in life. He may be trying to get rich quick so he can join the big league and become a buwaya in a few years.
Kapitan got into my consciousness a few months ago when a friend inquired about the taxing powers of barangay officials.
So I did some research and found out that under the 1991 Local Government Code and other legal issuances, barangays are authorized to raise income from taxes on stores or retailers with fixed business establishments and gross sales or receipts of P50,000 or less in cities and P30,000 or less in municipalities in the preceding year at the rate not exceeding one percent on such gross sales or receipts.
A barangay can also generate income from the following:
• Service fees or charges for the use of barangay property or facilities;
• Barangay clearance fees;
• Fees or charges for the commercial breeding of fighting cocks and from cockpits and cockfights;
• Fees or charges on places of recreation with admission fees;
• Fees or charges for billboards, sign boards, neon signs and other outdoor advertisements;
• Toll fees or charges for the use of any public road, pier or wharf, waterway, bridge, ferry, or telecommunications system funded and constructed by the barangay;
• Revenues from the operation of public utilities and barangay enterprises (markets, slaughterhouses, etc.);
• Fines (not exceeding P1, 000) for the violation of barangay ordinances; and,
• Proceeds from the sale or lease of barangay property or from loans and grants secured by the barangay officials.
The single biggest funding source of the barangay is its share in the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) as I discussed in last week’s column.
But I could not find anything that authorizes a barangay official to demand a “donation” in fixed amount from a foreign investor who wanted to put up a green house in the province and live a simple life in the farm.
The investor is a European guy who married a simple-minded lass from the Visayas. Using the Internet, the guy found a real estate broker who offered a seven-hectare farmland planted with 600 or so coconut trees.
The old coconut trees had to be cut for any development on the land to take place. The broker helped hire a contractor to cut the trees and construct the perimeter fence. Several hanky pankies happened from the time the broker got into the picture to the clearing of the land, but no matter how discouraging those were, the investor still wanted his project done.
What the investor found most awful came in the process of securing the necessary permits to build his dream greenhouse. When he was applying for a barangay permit to cut the coconut trees, Kapitan Bayawak wouldn’t sign it until the investor paid him P150 per tree to be cut. The investor had to pay a whopping P97,000 just to get Kapitan Bayawak sign the permit.
After the trees were cut and the investor had to clear the land, the contractor had to use a back hoe. The back hoe rental was P2,000 per hour, and Kapitan Buwaya demanded that he be paid an additional P500 per hour that the equipment was used.
He also demanded that the investor purchase all the materials needed for the green house construction and hire laborers from him, including the contractor who would oversee the project.
The investor said he felt so helpless. He knew nobody in the area. He said he had no choice but to pay off to get his retirement haven done.
All payments to Kapitan Bayawak were not issued receipts. He said these were “donations.”
I asked a few friends in the Southern Tagalog city about Kapitan Bayawak and the feedback I got was this: “Huwag kang magulat na humihingi sya hindi dahil eleksyon kundi ganoon ang kalakaran.”
Whew! Shocking indeed! I hope there is no more Kapitan Bayawak anywhere else in the country’s 42, 027 barangays. And I hope I won’t be seeing Kapitan Bayawak’s name on the list of winning candidates in today’s election.
I am praying that candidates vying for barangay chairman or a local council seat (konsehal) do not have the evil and corrupt mind that Kapitan Bayawak has in raising money from people who wanted to contribute to the development of his barangay.