MANILA, Philippines – Some villages across the country took to social media to increase attendance at the first barangay assemblies for 2017, while some offered incentives, such as solar lamps and fabric softener, to get residents to come.
Unlike in previous years, barangay officials took the opportunity to utilize social media – particularly Twitter and Facebook – to reach a wider audience. Officials from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) encouraged live video capture of the event, even strongly promoting the use of Facebook Live.
Barangay officials also used their personal accounts and the official Facebook pages of their respective barangays to give due notice of this meeting, and to document what was happening. (READ: #BrgyAssembly: All governance is local)
Mandated by sections 397 and 398 of the Local Government Code, the barangay assembly is a forum for residents to discuss neighborhood matters and hold locally elected barangay officials accountable. (READ: DILG mobilizes 42,000 barangays for federalism campaign)
The assemblies that convened for this year are especially significant, in light of the planned postponement of the October 2017 barangay elections and the absence of the restructured Sangguniang Kabataan (youth council), as well as its interim replacement by a Task Force on Youth Development. (READ: Filipino youth, safeguard your ‘patrimoney’!)
The DILG directed that all barangays must discuss federalism, a campaign pledge of President Rodrigo Duterte.
At Barangay Pedro Cruz, San Juan City, Metro Manila, a video explained that a federalist setup would reduce dependence on the central government, and provide local governments with more resources.
In Barangay Balatong B in Pulilan, Bulacan, federalism was discussed by Catherine Manalastas of DILG Region III. When Mover Alexandria Dennise San Juan asked her neighbors about the issue, most of them said that they preferred the current barangay election process.
Mover Alexandria Dennise San Juan interviewed her punong barangay (barangay chief), Teresita Ilagan, who said that under federalism, the states will be able to keep more of their income, and the conflict in Mindanao might be finally resolved.
The number of participants varied among the barangays. Barangay Pedro Cruz, in San Juan City, Metro Manila, had approximately 40 residents in attendance, similar to Barangay Balatong B in Pulilan, Bulacan, while Barangay Aguada in Isabela City, Basilan, had 70.
Around 100 residents, majority of them women, attended in Barangay Bagong Nayon, Antipolo City, while some 200 residents attended in Barangay Kahayagan, in Bayog municipality, Zamboanga del Sur. At Barangay Tambacan, Iligan City, more than 700 residents attended.
In barangays Eastside and Aguada, both in Isabela City, Basilan, Mover Jamju Rivera reported that most of the questions asked were focused on localized concerns, such as barangay finances, the condition of streetlights, solid waste management, daycare and health facilities. Almost everyone was given a copy of the barangay financial statements, which were also displayed prominently on the walls of the barangay hall. Notices were also posted before the assembly, the barangay halls were better decorated, and attendance was taken.
Officials in Barangay San Francisco 2 in Dasmarinas City, Cavite, took the opportunity to distribute solar lamps, fabric softener, and first-aid kits, while in Barangay Sto Rosario-Kanluran, Pateros, a raffle draw was conducted.
Barangay 24-A in Gingoog, Misamis Oriental, chose to recognize individuals in the presence of the gathered community, while in Barangay East Bajac Bajac, Olongapo City, local groups staged a series of performances.
In Barangay Dima, Dumanjug, Cebu, a clean-up drive was conducted by barangay officials and drug surrenderees from the neighborhood.
Grounds for administrative complaints
Despite the nationwide information campaign by the Philippine Information Agency, the Local Government Academy, the DILG, its regional, provincial, city and municipal local government officers, as well as local media, the Barangay Assembly Day did not take place in some towns across the country.
In Barangay BF Homes Parañaque, a resident who visited their barangay hall was informed that no barangay assembly was conducted on March 25. This also happened in Barangay San Antonio, Pili, Camarines Sur, where a resident learned of its rescheduling to April 2, again with no visible communication from officials.
At a barangay in Cebu City, a senior citizen arrived at the scheduled time and place and waited for two hours, but the barangay assembly did not take place.
In Barangay Centro 2, Claveria, Cagayan de Oro, a resident who lives across a barangay hall, reported that in the past 4 years, she had never attended or witnessed a barangay assembly take place.
Barangay Dominican-Mirador residents in Baguio City were told that officials could not disburse funds to conduct the barangay assembly, and that their treasurer still lacked reports.
In Calatagan, Batangas, a Mover reported that the barangay assembly was scheduled when residents were busy, and that youth organizations were kept in the dark regarding barangay activities. Netizen Jenny Santos Arcilla asked on Facebook why a punong barangay was conducting a barangay assembly in his own home.
The failure to convene the barangay assembly at the scheduled date is in violation of Memorandum Circular 2017-31 of the Secretary of the Interior and Local Government. The act can be used as grounds for an administrative complaint against officials who do not convene the assembly.
In Barangay San Bartolome, in the 5th district of Quezon City, youth were not permitted to attend the barangay assembly because they were not voters, and only one question was permitted before the adjournment of the session. Only sitio or homeowner association presidents were allowed to attend.
According to the law, residents who are at least 15 years old can participate in the barangay assembly. They don’t have to be registered voters.
In Barangay 851, Zone 93, Pandacan, Manila, a member of the barangay assembly was allowed to ask once, then dissuaded by members of the barangay council from asking more questions.
In barangays Pagina, Tubod Monte, Can-Upao, Canjulao, and Looc in Jagna, Bohol, the agenda was full that residents were already tired when the time came for the open forum.
The next nationwide Barangay Assembly Day is on October 8. Residents, however, can move to have their individual barangays call for meetings anytime during the year if needed. – with reports from Alexandria Dennise San Juan, Angela Casco, Jamju Rivera, and other Movers / Rappler.com
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