Transformation at the grassroots

Published April 9, 2018, 10:00 PM

by Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Atty. Joey D. Lina Former Senator
Atty. Joey D. Lina
Former Senator

By Atty. Joey D. Lina

Former Senator


This coming Saturday, April 14, is the start of the week-long filing of certificates of candidacy for those seeking elective posts in the Synchronized Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) Elections which shall finally be held on May 14.

It wouldn’t be surprising if the political exercise for the county’s smallest unit of government has been eagerly awaited for a long time, especially in places where people are extremely dissatisfied with their barangay officials, and where the youth aspire for greater involvement in their communities. The last barangay polls were held in October 2013, while the last SK elections occurred eight years ago, way back in October, of 2010.

Can significant positive changes be achieved this time in the country’s more than 42,000 barangays? Would the coming elections get rid of unsavory characters amongbarangay officials, and whose bosses are higher public officials rather than constituents? Would the various symptoms of our electoral dysfunction again rear its ugly head?

It’s beyond dispute that barangay officials have a very critical role in nation-building, in local development, delivery of basic social services, peace and order, and even in povety-alleviation and a host of many other functions that aim to provide local solutions to national problems.

“As the basic political unit, the barangay serves as the primary planning and implementing unit of government policies, plans, programs, projects, and activities in the community, and as a forum wherein the collective views of the people may be expressed, crystallized and considered, and where disputes may be amicably settled,” states Section 384 of the Local Government Code of 1991.

The role of the barangay as stated in the law is very noble indeed. But is the typical barangay functioning as envisioned? The Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG) seems to have thought otherwise, gauging by a scathing report it released in 2010.

“The barangay is a microcosm of oligarchic politics, misallocation of resources, and corruption. It serves as an extension of ruling political dynasties and as a base of future traditional politicians. Many candidates for punong barangay (barangay captain) are the children or relatives of the local mayor or councilors. ” CenPEG said.

“These practices make the barangays’ constitutionally-mandated ‘non-partisanship’ and ‘independence’ a farce and infuse their elections with the highly-partisan, personality-oriented, and fraud and violence-ridden elements seen in the national and local polls. ‘Village democracy’ is promoted by negative example through rampant vote buying, harassment, and other types of fraud. Clan politics in the barangay where elections are dominated by influential families is bound to create and sustain local dynasties and these serve either as appendage or extension by kinship of bigger political dynasties,” the CenPEG report added.

As for the SK, many are hoping that the new law, RA 10742 enacted in 2016, would bring back its lost nobility as well as its effectiveness in harnessing youth leadership in local governance. The SK Reform Act has an anti-political dynasty provision that bars relatives of elected officials up to the second level of consanguinity or affinity from pursuing SK posts. It raised the age, from 15-17 years to 18-24 years old, required of youth leaders for them to legally enter into contracts and be held liable. It also requires them to undergo leadership training and learn about good governance and fiscal accountability.

Prior to RA 10742, there were countless stories on how the disgraced SK had become a training ground for corruption and a “nursery” for political dynasties.

But the SK started on the right footing. During my first term as senator, I helped chair Book III of the Local Government Code in the Congressional Bicameral Conference Committee. The SK provisions incorporated in Book III were based on a separate bill I filed. It spelled out the SK structure, qualifications, tenure, powers and duties of its officers. It was in line with Article 2, Section 13, of the Constitution that “the state recognizes the vital role of the youth in nation-building and shall promote and protect their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social well-being. It shall inculcate in the youth patriotism and nationalism, and encourage their involvement in public and civic affairs.”

Being the youngest senator then, youth concerns were my primary focus, and thus I also worked for lowering the age of majority from 21 to 18 years of age. At that time, this worked well for SK officers elected by a Katipunan ng Kabataan consisting of youth with ages 15 to 21. Most, if not all, of those elected as SK chairmen and kagawads were those in the age of majority between the ages of 18 and 21.

What led to the disgrace of SK was the 2002 amendment to the Local Government Code’s provision on the ages of SK officers, lowering it from 15 – 21 years to only 15 – 17 years old. This effectively ensured that all SK officials were minors, and therefore at the mercy of older politicians who manipulated them.

To help bring about positive change in the coming barangay and SK elections, it is essential for patriotic citizens to organize and lead fellow Filipinos in identifying, encouraging and supporting highly qualified, compassionate, and God-fearing Filipinos to present themselves to the electorate as candidates. For significant and lasting change to happen, it is crucial that transformation begins at the grassroots.


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