The millionaire barangay

Oct 28-nov 3, 2010

COMMENTARY/EDITORIAL

The barangay election is finished and we now have to buckle down to work. Such is always the traditional call like what we heard from some winners in the aftermath of the May local and national elections. It’s time to work now and unite for good and development. It’s time to start the healing process right at the lowest rung of governance- the barangay. Somewhere there are upset victories of outsider, non-incumbent candidates. Somewhere there are losers’ gripes about the vote-buying of some candidates who won. There is greater vindication for the victorious incumbent barangay captains who won in the polls.  From the initial results, a large majority of them won and they should be congratulated because foremost they could not have been reelected had they not performed and accomplished for the good and welfare of their barangay constituents in their first or second term.

The major concern to the recent conduct of barangay polls, if reports from the rounds in Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley, are to be the gauge is the vote-buying made by some moneyed candidates on the eve of the election. There’s also that report that instead of money ranging from P50 to P200, goods were given such as ex-President GMA’s not-for-sale flourescent bulbs, rice, fish and others. For one, the triumphant Sto. Nino Kapitana Fely Dalagan in Panabo City did express a greater fear that when tarpaulin posters flourished so much in barangay vicinities and in the school where voting centers were located and money went around to tell a huge money expenditure of her rivals in the recent polls, she’s surrendering as early as now to run in the next barangay polls that would already require a good fortune of P1 million for one to win in the polls of a barangay located at the city centre. Perhaps, big poll expenditure is only applicable to her own barangay, but who knows in bigger barangays that have bigger Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) running to at least P5 million, the P1-million poll expenditure requirement of winning can be true across the country.  Add P1 million more from local sources for the income of that hypothetical barangay, and that P6-millionaire barangay has an opportunity of recouping in breakeven one’s P1 million poll expenses if, say a corrupt barangay captain, pockets a yearly P300,000 from barangay projects and purchases.

Unlike in the 70s, the barangays now as the lowest local government units have grown bigger and are richer not by thousands of pesos but by millions of pesos that salary levels of barangay kagawads and regular functionaries- the barangay secretary, barangay treasurer, clerks and utilitymen are proud to be already capable to feed their families out from barangay employment or from their mandate in the case of those holding the elective positions.

As barangay LGUs grow big, there’s such need for such grassroots transparency and accountability. But the problem is that acts of unscrupulous barangay officials would seem to be largely unwatched and even understood or worst emphatized that they seem to be officially allowed to make petty scams and ripoffs, with impunity and just letting the next barangay polls be their judge and tormentor, knowing that it has been the usually poor barangay officials who have been perspiring and sacrificing in the forefront, taking care the great unwashed masa majority. This isn’t, of course, universal. But this is indeed a distorted sense of public accountability. -Cha Monforte

 

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