Citizens wanted: Attend your barangay assembly day

Luisito Gepuela
Billions of pesos are at stake at this year's first barangay assembly

FROM DILG. A poster on the Barangay Assembly. Linked by Luisito Gepuela

MANILA, Philippines – This Saturday, March 29, 2014, all barangays in the Philippines will hold a small yet significant gathering of all barangay residents. The question, however, is whether Filipinos know what the meeting is all about? Should we even care?

By law, all barangays must conduct a Synchronized Barangay Assembly Day on March 29 for the first semester of 2014, in accordance with Presidential Proclamation Number 260, dated September 30, 2011.

Section 3 of Republic Act 7160 or The Local Government Code of 1991, as amended, states that, “Effective mechanisms for ensuring the accountability of local government units to their respective constituents shall be strengthened in order to upgrade continually [sic] the quality of local leadership.” 

The Synchronized Barangay Assembly Day has taken place every quarter since it began on March 29, 2003. The next Synchronized Barangay Assembly Day for 2014, covering the second semester, will take place on Sunday, October 12, 2014.

Must happen

The time and location for the Barangay Assembly in your barangay is dependent upon your punong barangay (barangay chairman); but make no mistake: it must take place.

To stress the importance, gravity, and essential nature of this activity, current regulations permit any resident of the barangay, a concerned citizen, a governmental organization or an NGO to file an administrative complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman, the local Sangguniang Panlungsod (City Council), or the Sangguniang Bayan (Municipal Council) against officials of the barangay who fail to convene the Barangay Assembly as directed.

At its core, this event is nothing more than a nationwide barangay stakeholder’s meeting. But the discussions and decisions made at the meeting will have a lasting impact on the residents of barangay resident.

I’d like to provide some information and background why the Barangay Assembly is imporant:

What are the roles and responsibilities of barangay officials?

The barangay is the basic political unit in the Philippines, and is administered in accordance with Republic Act 7160 or The Local Government Code of 1991, as amended and other related laws.

As declared by Section 384 of the same law, 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.”

What is the Barangay Assembly?

The Barangay Assembly, created and operating by virtue of Sections 397 and 398 of Republic Act 7160, “The Local Government Code of 1991,” as amended, is an integral component of the barangay government.

It is a congress of the Filipino citizens, aged fifteen (15) years or older, who have been resident in the barangay for at least six (6) months, and are duly registered in the list of members of the Barangay Assembly under the custody of the Barangay Secretary.

Note that you do not have to be a registered voter to take part in the Barangay Assembly.

The Barangay Assembly has been an institution of local government since 1960, by virtue of Republic Act 2370 or the “Barrio Charter Act.” Back then it was known as the Barrio Assembly, and it elected the members of what was known then as the Barrio Council.

How often does the Barangay Assembly meet?

The Barangay Assembly meets “…at least twice a year to hear and discuss the semestral report of the Sangguniang Barangay concerning its activities and finances as well as problems affecting the Barangay”, in accordance with Section 397 (b) of the Local Government Code.

There is a mandatory schedule for the convening of the Barangay Assembly, with the first meeting taking place on the last Saturday of March, while the second meeting is held on the third Saturday of October. These provisions, however, do not in any way limit the Barangay Assembly from meeting quarterly, monthly, or even weekly, should the community require it.

The meetings of the Barangay Assembly are called by:

  • The Punong Barangay
  • At least four (4) members of the Sangguniang Barangay
  • A written petition of five percent (5%) of the members of the Barangay Assembly 

One week’s prior written notice is required, except on matters involving public safety and security, in which case notice within a reasonable time is sufficient.

Who presides at meetings of the Barangay Assembly?

The Punong Barangay presides at meetings of the Barangay Assembly.

In his or her absence, it is the Sangguniang Barangay member acting as Punong Barangay, or any member of the Barangay Assembly selected during the meeting, who acts as presiding officer in all meetings of the Barangay Assembly.

The Barangay Secretary, or in his or her absence, any member of the Barangay Assembly designated by the presiding officer to act as secretary discharges the duty of secretary of the Barangay Assembly. These duties include keeping custody of all the records of the Barangay Assembly, including the minutes of its meetings, as well as preparing and keeping a list of members of the Barangay Assembly and posting the same in conspicuous places within the barangay.

What are the powers of the Barangay Assembly?

The Barangay Assembly possesses powers to:

  • “Initiate legislative processes by recommending to the Sangguniang Barangay the adoption of measures for the welfare of the barangay and the city or municipality concerned,”
  • “Decide on the adoption of initiative as a legal process whereby the registered voters of the barangay may directly propose, enact, or amend any ordinance,”
  • “Hear and pass upon the semestral report of the Sangguniang Barangay concerning its activities and finances”

Residents of the barangay, convened as the Barangay Assembly, may recommend that the barangay officials enact ordinances to resolve common barangay issues, such as stray animals, uncollected garbage, faulty streetlights, and clogged canals. Residents may even legislate directly if at least 50 registered voters file a petition with the Sangguniang Barangay proposing the “ adoption, enactment, repeal, or amendment of a barangay ordinance.” 

Last May, 2011, residents of Barangay Milagrosa in Quezon City made history by successfully enacting a barangay ordinance against informal settlers and illegal drugs, with a vote of 465 in favour and 384 against, through the means of local initiative.

(The procedure on local initiative is detailed further under Sections 120 to 127 of the Local Government Code here as well as Rule XX of its Implementing Rules and Regulations here.)

Most importantly, residents of the barangay exercise an important oversight function when convened as the Barangay Assembly. Like its counterpart fact-finding committee in either chamber of Congress, the Barangay Assembly listens to the semestral report detailing the activities as well as the financial condition of the barangay, and has the power and duty to hold the barangay officials accountable.

READ: Primer for the Barangay Assembly 2014

What to expect on March 29, 2014? 

DILG Memorandum Circular 2014-09, dated January 28, 2014 advises barangays nationwide to undertake the following activities during the Synchronized Barangay Assembly Day this Saturday:

1. State of Barangay Address (SOBA), with emphasis on:

a. Calendar Year 2013 Second Semester Accomplishments

b. Calendar Year 2013 Second Semester Financial Report to include, among others, the Itemized Monthly Collections

and Disbursement and the Summary of Income and Expenditures and

c. Updates on Calendar Year 2014 ongoing programs and projects

 

2. Compliance to DILG Memorandum Circular regarding the posting of Barangay Budget, Statement of Income and Expenditures and other Barangay Financial Transactions, and Annual Procurement Plan

3. Discussion on issues or concerns affecting the barangay, such as but not limited to:

a. Disaster Preparedness

b. Solid Waste Management

c. Peace and order situation, particularly on the proliferation of activities pertaining to illegal drugs in the barangay

d. Monitoring and strict enforcement of laws against Human Trafficking at the barangay level. 

The Memorandum Circular also authorizes barangay officials to perform other activities to create public awareness on and generate participation in the barangay assembly.

What’s at stake at this national barangay stakeholder’s meeting?

Nothing important, really – just billions of pesos divided among some 42,000 barangays throughout the Philippines.

In the National Capital Region alone, the total barangay share from the 2014 Calendar Year Internal Revenue Allotment given by the National Government, is close to P6 billion.

Depending on location, population, and other factors, each barangay receives several thousand, to several million, in IRA alone. Barangay 176 in Kalookan City, for example, has an IRA of more than P102-million but considering that it had a population of 243,890 as of calendar year 2010, how does that compare to Barangay 700 in Malate, Manila, with an IRA of P625,488 and a population of 42 as of 2010, as well?  

This does not include barangay revenue from other sources such as barangay fees, barangay taxes, income from barangay enterprises, and aid from other Local Government Units.

With all that money in circulation, you need to ask yourself: where does all this money go? And are you getting your money’s worth?

Why should your barangay spend its money on parties and socials when it doesn’t even have a working telephone? Does it have a banca ready for the next typhoon? Do the tanods have flashlights to aid their nightly patrols? Your very presence (or lack of it) helps influence your barangay’s spending priorities. How can the barangay get with the program if it doesn’t even have one?

Why should I care?

Because silence equals assent.

Because citizenship does not stop at the ballot box.

Because governments are derived from the consent of the governed.

Because decisions are made by those who show up.

Because you agree with Burke –  all that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men and women to do exactly nothing.

The barangay is a microcosm of the nation. It’s not unusual to see some barangays treated as a family business, or as a personal expense account. A barangay is only as effective and efficient as it its constituents expect it to be. Where there is weak oversight on the part of stakeholders, there is little incentive for its officials to ensure proper, effective, and efficient service delivery.

If you’re perfectly content with where your taxes go (or don’t go); if you feel that everything is all right with the country, province, city, municipality, or barangay you reside in, if you’re a glutton for punishment via iterations, by all means, stay home and watch TV, or do something else.

If you have an issue you want to raise, if you have an insight, or if you are just itching to give your local kagawads a piece of your mind, by all means, please attend and participate. You might be surprised – you may not be the sole voice in the wilderness you once thought yourself to be. –Rappler.com

 

Lou Gepuela is a Filipino citizen who believes that sustained public engagement with government and continued community empowerment is the missing link in fixing a significant portion of society’s ills. He spent the last five years learning and applying process improvement, people management, and customer care skills in the local BPO industry.


 

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