By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senator Aquilino Pimentel III is seeking to declare barangay officials as regular government employees with fixed salaries and benefits.
Pimentel recently filed Senate Bill 2148, or the proposed "Magna Carta for Barangays", which pushes, among others, the increase in the incentives of village officials like regular government employees.
Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel (KEVIN TRISTAN ESPIRITU / MANILA BULLETIN)
In filing the bill, which he had filed in 2007, Pimentel said he seeks to recognize the role of barangays in the country's governance.
"As the basic political unit, the importance of barangays in our system of government cannot be overemphasized. It is therefore fitting that measures to promote the welfare and prosperity of barangays be enshrined in a Magna Carta to give due recognition to the crucial role they play," the senator said in his bill.
SB 2148 proposes that barangay chiefs be given salaries equivalent to that of a member of the Sangguniang Bayan of his municipality or city.
Members of the Sangguniang Barangay, meanwhile, should receive an amount equivalent to 80 percent of the salary of their Sangguniang Bayan members. The Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) chair, barangay secretary and barangay treasurer should have a pay amounting to 75 percent of the salary of their Sangguniang Bayan members, the bill stated.
These barangay officials shall also be entitled to allowances and benefits, such as insurance, medical and dental coverage, retirement and "all other fringe benefits which a regular government employee may be entitled to,” Pimentel said.
Pimentel said that aside from officials, barangays shall also be "empowered" in the bill, particularly, in the disbursement of funds. The bill pushes the automatic release of their share from national taxes, and the transfer of those appropriated for maintenance of roads and bridges within its area of jurisdiction.
The proposed law also seeks to guarantee the mandatory share of barangays in taxes, fees and other charges collected from residents or entities operating within the area.
Under the measure, basic necessities such as regular supply of clean and potable water, public transportation, schools, health centers and barangay halls shall be provided to every barangay.
Other benefits also include: sponsoring at least one scholarship grant every year to any bachelor degree to bonafide residents of the barangay; priority employment to residents in every barangay in any government construction and development project within the barangay; and the establishment of cooperative enterprises in every barangay.
Pimentel, in pushing the approval of the bill, said the government should be "more attentive" in the development of the barangays, and allow them to have the authority and capability to handle its concerns on its level.
“Self-help or people power shall be the guiding principle in all barangay development projects,” he said.