2023 barangay and SK elections

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

Lou Gepuela

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

Guia Abogado/Rappler

'If you have a personal advocacy or personal hugot or even dreams for your community, you can advance this through your authority as a member of your Katipunan ng Kabataan'

It has regrettably become normalized for a lot of us Filipino citizens to endure bad (if not worse) public services, suffer the effects and consequences of poor-quality political leaders, and have little time and energy to do anything about it because, well, we all have to earn a living, which must take time, energy, and priority in our lives. 

Wala tayong magagawa, ganyan talaga ang buhay, goes the saying. To this, I counter: 

Kung gusto, maraming paraan. Kung ayaw, maraming dahilan.  

I am here to tell you that there is something we all can do about this, and yes, there are a lot of things all of us ordinary citizens can do right now to bring about better governance in our respective communities, particularly in our respective barangays. Even better, all of this is already long-enshrined in Philippine law, just waiting for citizens to activate and operationalize. Here are two examples:

First: This March (as well as every October), on a Saturday or Sunday (exact time and day depending on your barangay), Proclamation 599, Series of 2018 of the President of the Philippines provides for the holding of Barangay Assembly Day, which I’ve written about before. Why is this important?

All Filipinos aged 15 years and above, who have been residing in their barangay for at least six months, are automatically, by operation of law (Section 397 of Republic Act 7160, Local Government Code), members of their respective barangay assembly, whether you like it or not. You do NOT have to be a registered voter!

As a member of your respective Barangay Assembly, which is essentially a mini-House of Representatives in your barangay, you can (in accordance with Section 398 of Local Government Code):

  • 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. If need be, you can propose a resolution to be adopted by your barangay assembly.
  • Hear and pass (meaning, formally approve, via resolution, or even choose not to) upon the semestral report of the sangguniang barangay concerning its activities and finances, just like what is normally done in company shareholder meetings or village association assemblies.

Just like Congresspersons in the Batasang Pambansa, members of Barangay Assemblies can (and should!) ask questions about where the barangay money is going, and more importantly, judge barangay official performance, regarding what they say and promise versus what they actually do. After all, Article XI (Accountability of Public Officers), Section 1 of the Constitution, provides that, “Public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives”. (Emphasis mine)

This is what the DILG says must happen on your Barangay Assembly Day.

Second: If you are aged 15 to 30 years old, and have been a resident of your barangay for at six months, aside from automatically becoming a member of your Barangay Assembly as stated above, you are also automatically a member of your Katipunan ng Kabataan, a separate chamber in your own barangay, whether you like it or not. 

Under Section 5 (b) of Republic Act 10742, the Sangguniang Kabataan Reform Act of 2015, the Katipunan ng Kabataan serves as the highest policy-making body to decide on matters affecting the youth in the barangay. More importantly, the Sangguniang Kabataan in your barangay is required to consult and secure the concurrence of the Katipunan ng Kabataan in the formulation of ALL its plans, programs, and activities. 

This means that if you have a personal advocacy or personal hugot or even dreams for your community, you can advance this through your authority as a member of your Katipunan ng Kabataan. You can introduce resolutions and programs, asking them to be adopted and made official policy and programs of the youth in your barangay!

The Katipunan ng Kabataan must be convened at least once every six months, but nothing is stopping your Sangguniang Kabataan Chair from calling a meeting tomorrow, or even once every week, as needed! You can even convene the Katipunan ng Kabataan independently of the SK officials via written petition of one-twentieth (1/20) of the Katipunan members (or even independently meet as a committee of your Katipunan ng Kabataan)! 

If you have a youth organization, you can affiliate it with your local youth development office, and take part in preparing your local youth development plan, and other plans, programs, and activities! 

These are just two examples to bring about better governance in our respective communities. There are many more ways and entrypoints. All it takes are Filipino citizens who are willing to stand up and be counted, ready to exercise their rights and duties as citizens! #DontWaitParticipate – Rappler.com

Lou Gepuela is an active member of his Barangay Assembly and takes citizenship very seriously, translating his anger and frustration into positive action. He can be reached at lou.gepuela@gmail.com

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