EDITORIAL: The barangays

NOW THAT the people have chosen their barangay leaders, we wish to take this opportunity to remind them, especially the punong barangay or barangay chairman, of their duties and responsibilities that many of these winning candidates, it is sad to say, do not so much care about except to flaunt their promise that they will do their best without even knowing the specific tasks given their office. Although they will be serving the smallest administrative division in the realm of Philippine politics and governance, the barangays play the most important role when it comes to delivering frontline services to the people, such as keeping the streets and tributaries clean and safe for the residents, or seeing to it that each resident’s complaints are immediately addressed and their children protected, being the father or mother of the community where they all co-exist. And come to think of this: It was the barangay of Lapu-Lapu in Mactan that killed Magellan and drove away the invading Spaniards. The word barangay originated from balangay, a wooden boat used by a group of Austronesian peoples when they migrated to the Philippines and from thereon they formed their own communities upon settling on land. When the Spaniards came, they found these barangays to be well-organized independent villages. Soon, they were called ‘barrios’, or a cluster of communities that would form a municipality or city. In the time of Marcos and until now, the barrio has been renamed as barangay. The barangay chairman, apart from enforcing laws and ordinances, is empowered to negotiate, enter and sign contracts. But do our barangay leaders know this? Are they aware that the Local Government Code provides that barangays get a 20% share in the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA)? That the law has tripled their share in the proceeds from the basic real property tax from 10 percent to 30 percent in cities and to 25 percent in municipalities? Moreover, the barangays are given a slice from the tax on sand, gravel and other quarry resources – 40 percent of the province’s collections and another 40 percent of the city’s collections. Indeed, with the Local Government Code, the country’s more than 42,000 barangays are now enjoying wider privileges than ever before. Our barangay chairman should also know that the barangay he leads also wields taxing power. They can impose taxes on sari-sari store, for instance, whose profits are more than P30,000 a year, as well as collect fines not exceeding P1,000 for violation of a local ordinance. And like the provinces and cities, the barangay can float bonds, enter into contract, sell barangay properties, and solicit personal contributions and donations from private agencies to generate funds. These, without having to ask permission from higher offices. All they need is the authorization of their own Sangguniang Barangay. Finance-wise, we have learned that the Sangguniang Barangay plays a big role. It passes ordinances that cover taxation and budget. It is also in charge of approving the barangay development plan. Planning and budgeting in many barangays are reportedly sloppy because many barangay officials lack the competence and don’t know what to do in the first place. As a result, funds are not put into good use. Although we expect some of the barangay officials, especially the newly-elected ones, to undergo a sort of a crash program before assuming their offices, we do hope they would make effort even at this early stage to study and learn more about their duties and responsibilities as public officials who are worthy of our votes, as well as the trust and confidence that we have given them.