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In our barangay in a city south of Metro Manila, the chairperson is “graduating.”
After several terms marked by the most intellectually challenging task of issuing barangay resident’s certificates to anybody who asked for them, and of buying substandard Christmas lanterns so he could pocket the “savings” from the funds released by the mayor, he is running for kagawad.
The outgoing kapitan is endorsing as his successor a jobless man who’s not even an original resident of our barangay. In this candidate's spare time – and that’s often – he joins the other housebands in their street in their drinking sessions.
The chairperson himself had reprimanded this “party mate” for misusing the P6,000 “pera ng barangay” (village fund) he gave him for his campaign needs. The candidate used it to cover his grandchild’s school expenses and to pay his family’s Meralco bill.
What can we do? They are the types who are willing to run for public office.
The younger, educated, and decent residents of our barangay are either busy building careers in Metro Manila, or have decided to register where their condos are in the metropolis, or may have thought that it was too much for their pride to solicit the votes of neighbors who, professionally speaking, have achieved less than they have.
Or, we mistakenly think this is “just” barangay elections anyway. What harm can it do if we vote for people who are not competent and not so honest?
A lot. Book III Title I of the Local Government Code will tell you that.
They are the first court of sorts who will determine if you head to the police station or the fiscal if your husband beats you up, or if your neighbor’s fence is encroaching on your property.
They are supposed to come up with a development plan and a budget that, we want to imagine, should have some semblance of a NEDA document or at least an official-looking format and a lot of common sense.
They are supposed to care enough to stop the videoke-ing pest of a neighbor late in the night, and not be conveniently missing when floods paralyze our streets in the age of climate change.
Aside from giving them the authority to run those daily neighborhood affairs, indifferent voters like us are serving the fellas much more on a silver platter:
1) Discretion over the IRA
The country’s barangays share 20% of the internal revenue allotment each year. Those are the taxes collected by the Bureau of Internal Revenue – meaning, that chunk that’s automatically deducted from your salaries, or the thousands (or millions) of pesos your businesses pay every quarter.
The barangay share in the IRA is divided only among the original 41,882 barangays that were in existence when the Local Government Code was passed in October 1991. We now have 42,028 barangays. (If your barangay is one of those 146 created after the Code was passed, it means you’re getting your IRA from the mother local government unit.)
In any case, the officials we will elect on Monday, October 28, will have their hands on P68.3 billion in internal revenue allotment in 2014. You can check Rappler’s list of how much IRA for barangays the regions have gotten since 2010.
2) Share in other allocations for local government units
Every year, the national government’s budget law, the General Appropriations Act, has an item called ALGU or the allocations for local government units aside from their automatic share in the IRA. For 2014, there’s a total of P360.5 billion for the ALGU.
The budget note describes the ALGU as “special shares of local government units in the proceeds of national taxes,” as provided in various laws, namely:
Most of these taxes are distributed only among LGUs where the taxed establishments, operations, or products are located. If you live in a barangay with, say, a geothermal plant, an economic zone, or tobacco harvests, your officials will definitely have more than just P1 million a year in IRA to plan around.
3) Power to collect fees for what we thought were “normal” activities
The barangay can collect fees based on the receipts of stores operating within its jurisdiction, did you know that? If there’s a private swimming-pool-for-a-fee in your neighborhood, they can get a share of its income.
If they wanted to, they can charge young people for using the basketball court. They can make coffee farmers pay for using portions of the street to dry their seeds.
Ever wondered why in the world the barangay council endorsed to the city council the construction of a school in the residential part of your barangay, regardless of traffic and safety issues with residents?
Get the full picture of “possibilities” from the complete list of the barangays’ sources of income, prepared by the Department of Budget and Management.
In 2012, more than 14,000 corruption complaints were filed with the Ombudsman, and we can be sure a number of them involved barangay officials. In Bel-Air, the richest barangay in Makati City, charges of corruption running in the hundreds of millions of pesos are being hurled against the re-electionist chairperson.
4) Health insurance, scholarships, automatic civil service eligibility
They are getting Philhealth coverage when we pay for ours. They don’t have to pay tuition when we take out loans to get ourselves in school. They can skip the civil service exam that you or your friend probably flunked twice. (READ: Perks of barangay officials)
Yes, we know, those are benefits because of their supposed service. Do we take that away from them? No (aside from the fact that we can’t, unless laws are amended). That’s why we have to make sure those we put in office will more than deserve these perks.
5) The chance to become city/town councilor or provincial board member and make laws
After every barangay election, those who win as village chairmen and chairwomen gather to elect the officers of the municipality’s or the city’s Association of Barangay Captains (ABC) or the Liga ng mga Barangay.
It’s definitely not just a social club. Political camps – the mayor, the congressman, the governor – try to influence the outcome of their elections. So we’re talking here of the usual “accommodations,” a la campaign period, being showered on the “delegates.”
Why? The one who emerges ABC president becomes an ex-officio municipal or city councilor – enjoying another (and higher) set of salary and perks. More importantly, he or she becomes one vote when the town or city council passes ordinances and resolutions that will affect our daily affairs.
These resolutions or ordinances, I should say, all involve money – money to be collected from us residents (like garbage fees from properties that are clean but vacant); or money from possible bribes (like re-classifying agricultural lands into industrial so a retail giant can build a mall there).
These ABC presidents of towns and cities will also elect among themselves their provincial president. Whoever wins gets a seat in the provincial board. More powers and perks and…you get the drift. – Rappler.com
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