Barangay execs need to be resilient, dynamic

By Mar S. Arguelles LEGAZPI CITY --- Vice President Leni Robredo on Friday urged village officials to be resilient in carrying out their mandated task and not to rely much on the help of their political leaders. Robredo believes that for a country to prosper and be resilient it needs strong leaders that should come from the barangays that could face challenges to improve the well-being of their constituents. She lamented that barangay officials have been subservient to the mayors, governors, congressmen because of the sheer lack of funds to pursue socio-economic development projects in their respective communities. Robredo in her keynote speech at the Albay Sangguniang Barangay Legislative Empowerment Training participated in by hundreds of newly elected barangay officials said she feels that among the reasons these officials become subservient and dependent to their benefactors is the lack of training in crafting projects. The practice is that barangay officials spent much of their time in preparing resolutions, proposals and visiting their political leaders, lobbying for funds to implement projects, she stressed. Robredo said, “We know for a fact that barangays have no sufficient funds so the propensity is to go to their political leaders and fall prey to their [leaders’] wishes.” Robredo said when she was still a member of 16th Congress, she was pushing for the passage of the Barangay Reform Bill which she co-authored. According to Robredo, among the salient features of the proposed bill include the extension of the term of office of barangay officials, the professionalization of barangay volunteers and workers, and holding of capacity building programs, especially in implementing the Bottoms up Budgeting (BUB) process. On the aspect of extending the term of barangay officials, she explained that the current 3-year term is quite a short period for officials to implement projects. “When the term of office is short the propensity of being dependent to politicians is always there, extend it these leaders would become subservient to the constituents,” she said. Robredo told the participants that she believes that by extending the term limits to a longer period would be more productive since these officials could plan out and implement projects that their constituents wanted them to undertake. As for the professionalization of barangay volunteers, the bill would require the national government to set aside funds for salaries of barangay workers such as Barangay Health, Social and Nutrition workers. Currently, the Internal Revenue Allocation (IRA) given to barangays are spent for paying honoraria to workers rather than in implementing development project for the community, Robredo said. For the BUB the program is designed to teach barangay officials the process of identifying and implementing projects in consultation with their constituents. According to Robredo, the process would eliminate the dependency of the barangay officials to political interventions. “I believe for a public official to be effective and trustworthy dapat sila ay maging malakas, matibay, matino para maiangat, at itaas ang antas ng pamumuno,” she said.