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.
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.
Dissemination of the barangay assembly notice was nil. I saw no signs or leaflets. Heard no announcement from tanods going around.— Jane Uymatiao (@philippinebeat) March 29, 2014
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?
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.
@MovePH We’ve used social media in inviting people. We think it was quite effective. We’re looking at using twitter next time for open forum— Tobit Cruz (@tobitcruz) March 29, 2014
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 email@example.com with the subject line “iWatch my barangay” you can also post on our Facebook page.
Raisa Serafica is the social media producer of MovePH.