2023 barangay and SK elections

[ANALYSIS] Jedi, opportunity knocks: Back to the barangay, time to get involved

Winnie Monsod

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[ANALYSIS] Jedi, opportunity knocks: Back to the barangay, time to get involved

Nico Villarete, Rappler

Keep your eye on the ball, Jedi. If thanks to our people power efforts, we have good government in the barangays, we can surely bring that all the way to the top.

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” – Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple

Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” – John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address as 35th President of the United States

Reader, if these quotes resonate with you, read on.

The long vacation is over, and this is no time to feel pangs of conscience about not participating, or even wanting to, in the barangay elections. Time’s a-wasting, there’s work to be done. By You. Yes, You. 

I. Nominate your Lupon

Your first involvement with your barangay should be right now. Why? Because your Punong Barangay (PB) or barangay chairman, within 15 days of taking office (November 30), must prepare a notice to constitute the Lupon Tagapamayapa (a.k.a. Lupon), incuding the names of proposed members (10 to 20) who have expressed their willingness to serve. This notice will be posted in 3 conspicuous places in your barangay for a period of at least three weeks.

What do You do? Even now, because the Christmas season is fast approaching, You must try to find people (maybe seniors, retirees, or You yourself) – “any person actually residing or working in the Barangay, not otherwise expressly disqualified by law, and possessing integrity, impartiality, independence of mind, sense of fairness, and reputation for probity” who are willing to be appointed a member of the Lupon. And submit their names to the PB.  

Alternatively, you may wait for him to submit a list of names. And if they are okay with you, fine. But if they are not okay, you still have a right to object, and then look for replacements to recommend to the Lupon.

The point is, you have the power. So, exercise it. 

But what is the Lupon?

It is the barangay justice system, the first rung in the justice ladder in this country. It is there to  to reduce the burden of dispensing justice on the municipal, regional and upper courts. Lupon is where disputes are settled amicably, either by conciliation or by arbitration, no lawyers involved. Just the disputants and the Pangkat ng Tagapagkasundo (Conciliation Panel), which is composed of three members of the lupon chosen by disputants. Actually, the PB, who is chair of the Lupon – note immediately that the PB is head of not only the executive and the legislative branches but the judicial branch as well, of the barangay – has first crack at settling the dispute, but failing, it goes to the Lupon.  And YOU can have a say in who is in the lupon, the members of which serve for three years (Local Government Code, Chapter 7, Katarungang Pambarangay, Sections 399-422).

Power – You only have to exercise it.

But, You say, the PB can still override Your opposition or recommendations regarding the Lupon members. He is in fact, relatively more powerful than a President or a Prime Minister. Who can stand against that power?  

Aaahh. There You go again, living proof of Alice Walker’s quote. Not so.  

II. Using the Assembly to hold barangay accountable.

Unlike our President, or Senators, or the rest of our elected officials, whose performance will be judged by the people only at the end of their terms, our PB has to stand before the people and be judged by them, not once, but AT LEAST twice a year during his term. He will have to explain and defend his actions to You.  

When and where? In the Barangay Assembly (BA), which is composed of actual residents for at least six months of the barangay, Filipino citizens 15 years and older, and duly registered in the list of BA members. That means everyone qualified to vote in the Barangay elections who are duly registered in the list of BA members. That means YOU have to go make sure you are duly registered in that list, because I don’t know if being a qualified voter means automatic membership in the BA list. Another thing to do, right away. 

The BA must be the most dormant, maybe even the most moribund of the barangay institutions. Since Batas Pambansa 337 was enacted in 1983, and then replaced by Republic Act 7160 (the Local Government Code), it has never lived up to its potential.  

Today, 40 years after it was born, the Department of Interior and Local Governments (DILG) still seems to be ignorant of the very active role the BA plays in good governance, which is the power to hold the PB and the Sanggunian (Council) to account. The agenda that DILG has asked the barangays to follow in their BA meetings attests to that. The DILG memorandum talks merely about an open forum and a discussion. But RA 7160 (Local Government Code) is very clear on the powers of the BA: “The Barangay Assembly shall:

(a) Initiate legislative processes by recommending to the Sangguniang Barangay (Barangay Council) the adoption of measures for the welfare of the Barangay and the city or municipality concerned; 

(b) 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; and 

(c) Hear and pass upon the semestral report of the Sangguniang Barangay concerning its activities and finances. (emphasis mine)   

“Pass upon” means to determine concerning; to give judgment or sentence upon; the World Law Dictionary defines it as “to determine; decide; resolve.”

How powerful is that? See what I mean? Enough power certainly to serve as a check and balance to the Punong Barangay.  

In fact, the BA is the only check and balance for the PB, and to the extent it is dormant, that is the extent to which a powerful people have given up their power.  

III. Write your laws

BTW, regarding the second BA power, here is another task for You: Be sure your barangay has already adopted initiative as a legal process. If it hasn’t, make sure it is in your agenda for your Barangay Assembly meeting in March. 

Keep your eye on the ball, Jedi. If thanks to our people power efforts, we have good government in the barangays, we can surely bring that all the way to the top.

That’s what we can do for our country. – Rappler.com

[OPINION] We can make our government work better – and it starts in our barangays

[OPINION] We can make our government work better – and it starts in our barangays

Solita “Winnie” Monsod was the first National Economic and Development Authority secretary appointed after the fall of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986. She is a professor emerita at the UP School of Economics where she taught starting 1983. She finished her degree in economics in UP and obtained her masters in economics at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a board director of Rappler Inc.

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