By the time this column comes out, we would have elected our new set of barangay officials. There would be a lot of joyous celebrations but at the same time, I expect many relationships, by blood, affinity and other forms, to be partially or wholly destroyed.
This is the essence of elections. While democracy implies the rule of the majority, there will always be a minority, sometimes a minority of only one vote less, who will be disgruntled with the results and consistently waiting for mistakes to happen. What we have to learn is how to look beyond election day and the campaign period, when all sorts of issues are raised – from the valid to the most mundane, from legitimate to illegitimate, from the kitchen sink to the toilet bowl, and hope and pray we will get the government we rightfully deserve after all is said and done.
Since the election involves people living in the barangay, the smallest and simplest government unit of the Philippines, with a population ranging from perhaps a hundred to several thousands, emotions can run very high. Those that are normally stoic to anything political will have an opinion or even go as far as actively campaign for a candidate in the barangay election.
Because it is our barangay officials who are at the frontline of anything and everything happening outside our door.
The barangay keeps the peace and order in our community. If a neighbor and his rowdy friends decide to sing karaoke until the wee hours of the morning, it is the barangay that ensures everyone will have a peaceful and restful night. If there are vehicles perpetually parked or structures illegally put up along the street, it is the barangay that ensures traffic along thoroughfares (whether busy or not) are smooth.
The barangay has a health committee in charge of basic health services, beautification, cleanliness and sanitation. If the Department of Health has a national vaccination program, it is the barangay health workers that ensure residents are vaccinated and at the very least, informed. It is also the barangay who should formulate and implement a policy on garbage collection to ensure streets and public places are free from trash and litter.
The barangay is supposed to be in-charge of providing formal and non-formal education. Since the Department of Education is the primary agency tasked to provide basic education, barangays should operate day-care centers, aside from other training programs for the different sectors of the community.
When I used to be active in the political circuit, I usually emphasize the importance of barangay officials, the Barangay Chairman in particular, that when a resident loses the right pair of his slippers left at the bottom step of his house, he can go to the Barangay Chairman to ask what happened to the left pair.
Thus, it is not easy to be a barangay official. In my own opinion, it is the most difficult among any of the elected positions in terms of the demands of the job. The public service required and expected exceeds 24/7, if this is mathematically possible.
I can understand those that seek the office based on their publicly available curriculum vitae, their work experience and my personal perception. However, I don’t understand those that seek the office (also) based on their publicly available curriculum vitae, their work experience and my personal perception.
This is why I am very much affected not only in the election in the barangay where our permanent residence is in Cagayan, but also the barangay election at our residence in Metro-Manila, the barangay where our ancestral home is located, the barangay where my childrens’ schools are, and almost any other barangay where I will pass by, stop over or visit, now or in the future.
Isn’t it that our safety, and that of our family, or even of people we hardly or don’t know, our primary concern? It is the barangays who are supposed to be first to know, first to the scene, first to act. This is how our system of governance works. And to have a good government, the foundation, which is the barangay, has to be good first.
What is alarming though is when money comes into the picture, and vote-buying and vote-selling becomes rampant. What is disgusting is when supposedly respected people use their powers to threaten those they perceive as lesser mortals.
Just to cite an example, the sister of a supporter of one candidate in Bulacan was threatened to be terminated from her job if the sibling doesn’t stop joining the campaign sorties of a particular candidate. Her employer happens to be a close relative of the other candidate. I personally had a very high regard to her employer up until last week when I was informed about it.
We, the Filipino people, have become aware of the pork barrel and its ills. When will we, the Filipino people, become aware that we don’t even have to guard the pork barrel only if we elect the right people? The election, in the barangay, local and national levels, remains to be the key to good governance.