On Oct. 12, activate autonomy and start solving local problems PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 29 September 2014 11:43

By MANNY VALDEHUESA

 

Autonomy is self-governance. It is to be on top of a situation, managing it, being in control of it. This was what the law meant to take place when the Local Government Code was enacted—where it gave the barangay its triple attributes—as a government, as a corporation, and as an economy. It was all the sovereign citizens at the grassroots needed to achieve autonomy.

To be autonomous is to be a processor of issues and a problem-solver. To process issues is to combine heads, ideas, and insights in order to discern the ways by which problems can be treated or contained. And to be a problem-solver is to take the necessary steps for removing the problem.

Like a family council that meets to take up matters requiring group cooperation—even if it’s only to help one member of the family who’s in trouble—the Barangay Assembly was meant to be the processor of our community problems and its problem-solver.

All sorts of problems hound people in our respective communities—problems that with some imagination and local initiative can be addressed and resolved right there, without external assistance or intervention.

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But for lack of initiative and leadership, the problems just fester, unaddressed and unresolved although there are mechanisms for tackling them if not entirely eradicating them. As a result, widespread poverty remains unrelieved, mendicancy proliferates, desperate people resort to criminality, and disorder and misery haunts everyone.

Amidst all this, all the bureaucrats can think of is manipulate people and communities with repetitive rituals that produce no results or relief.

One such ritual is the forthcoming nationwide “Synchronized Barangay Assembly” on October 12. It requires everyone to attend and listen to barangay officials as they render the same sort of reports that brag about alleged accomplishments that do nothing to decrease the level of misery and wretchedness in their neighborhoods.

The prescribed agenda lets officials grandstand and claim credit for projects, paint a rosy picture of local conditions in a “State of the Barangay Report,” display photogenic gimmicks like a dental or medical mission, and serve refreshments.

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In other words, the officials conduct the Assembly as if it’s THEIRS and NOT THE PEOPLE’S—certainly NOT the kind where issues ARE RAISED and DEBATED and RESOLVED with satisfaction.

Thus the Barangay Assembly’s primary purpose, which is to encourage and induce autonomy, is never achieved. It is supposed to be the “forum wherein the collective views of the people may be expressed, crystallized and considered, and where disputes may be amicably settled” (Section 384, 1991 Local Government Code, R.A. 7160)

But instead of letting the people go through the paces of self-governance, problem-identification, and problem-solving, the pretentious officials dominate the assembly while everyone sits or stands listening passively, their views rarely solicited or entertained, let alone allowed to influence the process of decision-making and implementation.

The reports officials make are verbal, not printed, meant only to be heard and presumed to be accepted—which is contrary to Section 398 (c) which requires the Barangay Assembly to “Hear and pass upon the semestral report of the sangguniang barangay concerning its activities and finances.”

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Other times, they don’t even bother to create or to keep the Barangay Development Council (BDC) operative. This happens to be the next most important agency of the community next to the Barangay Assembly. Charged with formulating the community’s development plan and supervising its implementation, it is supposed to meet at least once every six months or more as circumstances require.

The BDC’s duties include mobilizing people to participate in development efforts as well as monitor and evaluate national programs that take place within the barangay’s jurisdiction, conducting public hearings on plans and programs.

To institutionalize local autonomy, the BDC is supposed to build local capability to participate in these activities and even call on national agencies to assist in preparing local development plans and investment programs.

And to broaden the people’s participation in autonomy and local development, the BDC is supposed to create sectoral and functional committees for various purposes including capability-building seminars, volunteerism, livelihood, and the like.

But no one bothers to raise these issues. They are rarely if at all taken up in Barangay Assembly. The people are kept in a state of passive citizenship, unable to participate in their own development or in creating prosperity for their own community.

Is this passivity the natural condition of Filipino citizenship?  — Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, Southeast Asia Publishers Association; director, Development Academy of the Philippines; member, Philippine Mission to the UN; vice chair, Local Government Academy; member, Cory Govt’s Peace Panel; awardee, PPI-UNICEF outstanding columnist. He is president/national convenor, Gising Barangay Movement Inc. You may reach him at valdehuesa@gmail.com. He writes for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews