#BrgyAssembly: All governance is local

Lou Gepuela

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#BrgyAssembly: All governance is local
Stop the errant complaining and get involved. Sustain the community conversation. Let's start partnering on solutions

MANILA, Philippines – Nothing is working and people don’t care – and that’s exactly where the problem lies.

Social media is rife with the rants and rage of many of us, be it regarding traffic, crime, and our current political leadership, or lack of it. Memes abound (as well as schadenfreude), but despite all this, once the anger has passed, what have we accomplished? Is it nothing more than, as the Bard says, tales told by idiots, full of sound and fury, and signifying nothing?

We as a people have been so well-trained and conditioned to believe that governance is a responsibility of our elected and appointed officials, not caring to realize that we have merely delegated this inalienable authority, and can always take it back. Like a power of attorney, it can always be retracted.

Article II (Declaration of State Principles), Section 1 of the Constitution stated it succinctly: “The Philippines is a democratic and republican State. Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.”

Sovereignty resides in us, the Filipino people, and all government authority comes from us. Government officials and employees work for us. They serve at our pleasure. They hold office through our suffrage, and by our sufferance.

Why, then, do we always tolerate mismanagement, inefficiency, and poor governance? Why do we permit ourselves to be treatly badly? 

Learned helplessness

The sense of powerlessness ordinary citizens feel is fuelled only by the lack of awareness that they are more powerful than they can possibly imagine.

The frustrating thing is that not many citizens realize that the power to implement change at the community level is already in their hands, just waiting to be utilized. 

CITIZEN PARTICIPATION. A barangay assembly held in 2014 inside UP Diliman. Photo by Raisa Serafica/Rappler

The Barangay Assembly

All Filipinos aged 15 years, and resident in a barangay for at least 6 months (you do not need to be a registered voter!), are considered a member of their respective barangay (village) assemblies, with guaranteed seat, voice, and vote. 

Like any senator or representative, we can directly introduce legislation, and have the right and duty to hold our barangay officials accountable for their activities, and exercise the prerogative to know and discuss the specifics of barangay finances.  

The barangay assembly does not have a quorum requirement, can be convened anytime, and does not require the presence of barangay officials. It is the perfect forum to discuss and address commmunity problems.

Initiative. Citizens can directly enact local ordinances, and even enact national law, through the power of initiative.  

Recall. If they have lost confidence in their public officials, citizens can even directly remove their provincial, city, municipal, and barangay officials through the process of recall. 

Responsive Efficiency. The Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007, Republic Act 9485, prescribes suspension without pay, up to dismissal and perpetual disqualification from public service, for any failure to act on a written request in a timely manner, or a failure to render service.

Transparency. We don’t even need to wait for the Freedom of Information Bill to be enacted to require greater transparency and accountability from our provincial, city, municipal, and barangay officials.

Section 513 of Republic Act 7160, The Local Government Code, provides:

“Failure by the local treasurer or the local chief accountant to post the itemized monthly collections and disbursements of the local government unit concerned within ten (10) days following the end of every month and for at least two (2) consecutive weeks at prominent places in the main office building of the local government unit concerned, its plaza and main street, and to publish said itemization in a newspaper of general circulation, where available, in the territorial jurisdiction of such unit, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding Five hundred pesos (P500.00) or by imprisonment not exceeding one (1) month, or both such fine and imprisonment, at the discretion of the court.”

If this legal provision was fully implemented, all of us should know the state of local government finances to the very last centavo – and we would have more treasurers and accountants in jail. Yet it isn’t implemented, and so we don’t know, and our ignorance provides continued bliss for the true enemies of the Filipino people. 

We promote continuing disrespect for the law and erode our institutions.

Indifference, just like corruption, kills

What is even more frustrating is despite being shown ways forward, despite being educated and informed about their rights and privileges given and granted under the law, many prefer to defer action, choosing to mutter among themselves instead of acting on things. 

The axiom is correct: There are no tyrants where there are no slaves, but apathy and learned indifference result in individuals electing to be automatons instead of beings vested with choice and free will. On the other hand, a politician at rest will remain at rest unless pressured to act by a greater external force.

What we have here is a failure of political will, compounded by an even greater failing, an absence of civic virtue. The result is that we get the status quo.  

Get angry, but get involved

Anger is the fuel that drives reform. If you’re angry with the status quo, channel that emotion into positive, constructive action.

You can also harness the power of social media to inspire online initiatives that empower communities.

  • Join Move.PH and tell stories that inspire people to act
  • Take the #PHVote Challenge and help choose the leader we want and deserve
  • Be part of Project Agos and #NowPH initiatives to help mitigate the effects of climate change

There is a lot of work to be done. As a citizen, the responsibility for the quality of your country and community ultimately begins and ends with you.

Choose to lead!  Rappler.com

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