The direct people empowerment

Introduction

The Alliance for Nationalism and Democracy (ANAD) adopted this principle and program with the end and view of giving more meaning to DECENTRALIZATION and AUTONOMY in local governance. In the many years that the Local Government Code has been in effect, the barangay, as the basic unit of governance, has been in the forefront of a many governmental programs. Yet benefits were not reaped by them because of the pervading culture of traditional political clout that has already contaminated even the new breed of people who are now in public offices, to include those elected.

The sad experience that we have, brought about 40-years of Maoist communist driven insurgency, showed that the barangays had been the communit’s most potent vehicle to stage political control. However, those in the mid-level to the top of our government structure seems not to understand the importance of laying down a strong foundation for a truly representative and development focused leadership by giving the barangays “a share of the pie”, in terms of responsibilities and direct involvement in government, in the over-all program of nation building.

Through this program, ANAD, whose members are mainly in the grassroots of the Filipino community, seeks to enlighten and share its program of governance with the purpose of stimulating peace and order, progress, and political stability in the country.

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Barangay-based Democracy

The Diwata ng Lahi, a replica of the ancient Balangay boat, went out for a test sail in Manila Bay on July 11 2009.  The word itself is derived from an ancient Malayo-Polynesian boat called a balangay. It is commonly believed that in pre-colonial Philippines, each original coastal “barangay” formed as a result of settlers arriving by boat from other places in Southeast Asia.

The Diwata ng Lahi, a replica of the ancient Balangay boat, went out for a test sail in Manila Bay on July 11 2009. The word itself is derived from an ancient Malayo-Polynesian boat called a balangay. It is commonly believed that in pre-colonial Philippines, each original coastal “barangay” formed as a result of settlers arriving by boat from other places in Southeast Asia.

LONG before the Spaniards came to the islands, the Balangay, as it was then called, was the political unit that was in style. Each community cellular governed by a datu had all the characteristics of an autonomous political unit. The society then was a classed one with the” maharlika” having the say in the political life of pre-Hispanic Philippines.

It was during the Marcos-era when the revival of the Balangay System, now known as the barangay, took shape.

Now, the barangay is the country’s smallest political unit. The promise of micro-governance giving people, at the grassroots, more room to operate for their own shot at progress has been waylaid.

The present set-up has even diluted the concept of the barangay as a unit whereby governance could be directly felt by the people as most barangays have been mendicants relying on a Big Brother mentality.

History

Historically, a barangay is a relatively small community of around 50 to 100 families. Most villages have only thirty to one hundred houses and the population varies from one hundred to five hundred persons. According to Legazpi, he found communities with twenty to thirty people only. Many coastal villages in the Visayan region consisted of no more than eight to ten houses. The word itself is derived from an ancient Malayo-Polynesian boat called a balangay. It is commonly believed that in pre-colonial Philippines, each original coastal “barangay” formed as a result of settlers arriving by boat from other places in Southeast Asia.

Most communities were coastal or riverine in nature. This is because the principal sources of protein come from the seas and rivers, most of the people relying more on fishing for supply of food. Also, people traveled mostly by water. The movement of the population was up and down rivers and along the coasts, trails always followed river systems. Rivers were also a major source of water for bathing, washing, and drinking. Moreover, coastal villages are more accessible to traders where an economic activity is developed. Business with traders meant contact with other cultures and civilizations like the Chinese, Indian, and Arabian. Thus, the coastal communities in Manila, Cebu, Jolo, and Butuan attained a higher cultural level.

Upon the arrival of the Spanish, several ancient barangays were combined to form towns. Every barangay within a town was headed by the cabeza de barangay (barangay chief). The post was at first inherited from the first datus who became cabezas de barangay, but then was made into an elected post. The primary job of the cabeza de barangay was to collect taxes from the residents.

When the Americans arrived, the term barrio went into prominence, as the barangays were called by that name. The term was kept for much of the twentieth century until Marcos ordered the renaming of the barrios back to barangay. The name has stuck ever since, though some people still use the old term.

Direct Democracy

Direct democracy is being practiced in some places such as cantons in Switzerland. Here people at each canton directly exercise their sovereignty through ballots on important legislation or policies that involves the canton.

The type of democracy we have been accustomed to is called representative democracy. Here, the people appoint representatives during elections and hand them the sovereign power of the people for effective governance.

The ideology of barangay-based democracy is to give more opportunity to the people at the grassroots of society to actively participate in governance.

The barangay-based democracy aims to strengthen the barangay system as the basic building block of a democratic government.

In effect, if the cells of governance are strong, the numbers of the cells will add up and will become greater than the sum of all of its parts.

This is the real people empowerment, as the progenitors of this kind of ideology said, since the people at the very core of society will have a hand on their own destiny.

Right now with the kind of a system, people at the barangay level are mendicants to what the municipal, provincial or national government could spare to them. Through the cooperative work within the barangay, each baranggay could create opportunities, such as livelihood and other sources of income so that people would have less time to do no good.

This will partially solve the peace and order problem since poverty drives people into crimes due to lack of opportunity to earn a living.

At the same time, people at the barangay level would also be driven by their bayanihan spirit to police their own vicinity since they will be made stakeholders of their own security.

Professionalization of Barangay Officials

Right now, barangay officials receive honoraria to serve the barangay government. Barangay-based democracy pushes for the professionalization of barangay officials. In this manner, officials would have more drive to put time in their effort to serve their ka-barangays.

In the present set up, some barangay officials even reside in other barangays other than the one they are supposed to serve. Even there are reports that some officials live even outside the town there are supposed to serve as barangay officials!

Having professional barangay officials ensure us that our officials will not give their constituents a piece meal kind of service rather the kind of dedication.

The barangay is the frontline in the promotion and maintenance of national peace. Thus also it is important that the professionalization of the barangay tanod as well as the barangay council leaders and members are of paramount importance.

Social awareness, the value enrichment and barangay leadership shall be strengthened thru education and advocacy. Economic growth is best achieved in a peaceful environment.

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