#BrgyAssembly: When theory does not equal practice

Raisa Serafica
March 29 was barangay assembly day. What, you didn't know? Don't worry, you aren't the only one

Have you ever wondered what causes the disparity between the written law and the way it is practiced?

Take the barangay assembly as an example.

Presidential Proclamation Number 260 mandates all barangays in the Philippines to report to their constituents the status of past projects and future plans for the community through the barangay assembly which happens twice a year.

What is promising about the barangay assembly is that it is not meant to be a one-way process where the officials do all the talking. Beyond merely informing the community, the barangay assembly also aims to involve residents in local governance

Through the assembly, residents can voice out the community issues that directly affect them – be it about clogged canals, faulty streetlights, uncemented roads or poor garbage disposal. All the local officials will be there to hear and, possibly, directly accept or suggest proposals to address each problem.

Ideally, as the barangay assembly holds local officials accountable, it likewise empowers citizens in decision-making, encourages citizen participation and promotes good governance at the local level.

ALL TOGETHER. Residents gather for the barangay assembly in Barangay UP Campus held on March 29. Photo by Raisa Serafica/Rappler

Information drive

However, anecdotal reports gathered by Rappler’s Move.PH suggest that the reality does not even come close to the theoretical image Presidential Proclamation Number 260 tries to paint.

When we published a story on the barangay assembly by Mover Lou Gepuela and the call-out to our Movers to attend their respective barangay assemblies, we received two kinds of feedback: those expressing skepticism and those who didn’t even know about the barangay assembly.

Movers Robert Vicencio and Marco Paulo Bernabe said that they never heard about the event prior to reading it on Rappler.

Several netizens also criticized the lack of any prior notice on the assemblies in their communities.

How can people participate in local governance if they aren’t even given any opportunities to air their sentiments and learn about what their local officials are doing?

Best practices 

Not all barangays failed, thankfully.

Some demonstrated that, with the right amount of willpower and genuine intention to make the barangay assembly successful, information dissemination is easy.

A few barangays went beyond the minimum requirements and to proactively disseminate information to gather large number of attendees.

In Brgy Sta. Ana, Rizal, Tobit Cruz said barangay officials used social media as part of an innovative information drive. 

On the other hand, barangays like Brgy UP Campus resorted to house-to-house visits in disseminating the schedule and venue of the barangay assembly.

What should be done

With the disappointing results from 2014’s first barangay assembly coupled with reports of corruption at all levels of government, it comes as no surprise that people have become jaded about the potential of the barangay assembly to institutionalize accountability and transparency. 

However, remaining passive is accepting status quo. The best way to counter corruption is to proactively fight it. 

Here are concrete and simple things citizens can do if their barangay chairman did not fulfill their role to conduct a barangay assembly: 

  • Check the compliance of your barangay – Barangays are mandated by law to hold their assemblies twice a year. Violations have corresponding consequences on the barangay officials. 
  • Report your barangay for violation – If no barangay assembly took place, file a complaint with the Office of the Ombudsman and hold your barangay chairman accountable. 
  • Spread the word – Let the small ripples of change start with you. Another barangay assembly will be held this year in October. Spread the word about the barangay assembly and inform others about their shared responsibility as good citizens until the law we know becomes the reality we live through. 
  • Share your story – Tell us what happened in your barangay assembly or what you plan to do to hold your barangay officials accountable. Email us at move.ph@rappler.com with the subject line “iWatch my barangay” you can also post on our Facebook page.
– Rappler.com 

Raisa Serafica is the social media producer of MovePH. 

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Raisa Serafica

Raisa Serafica is the Unit Head of Civic Engagement of Rappler. As the head of MovePH, Raisa leads the on ground engagements of Rappler aimed at building a strong community of action in the Philippines. Through her current and previous roles at Rappler, she has worked with different government agencies, collaborated with non-governmental organizations, and trained individuals mostly on using digital technologies for social good.