Manny Valdehuesa .
Citizens are the source of government’s legitimacy and of the officials’ authority. The citizenry’s sense of responsibility and duty determines whether their government behaves responsibly and dutifully. -Gising Barangay Movement Inc.
RESPONSIBLE citizens create responsible governments; irresponsible citizens create irresponsible governments. This cannot be overemphasized. It is why wise people say that we get the politicians we deserve; that if we are unhappy with our government, we have ourselves to blame.
But simply acknowledging the blame won’t do any good. It won’t make the government or its officials change their behavior. Only citizens with a desire for good governance and who perform their role in its processes can change the behavior of government. Their sovereign power, aided by the law, enables them to impose their will on the conduct of officials and on the content of their decisions.
Defining this sovereign power of a citizen—and how to assert it in order to reform government or politics—is the challenge facing us all. It really is People Power, which starts with the individual, or the Power of One.
We dealt last time with the post-election tasks needing a citizen’s attention in order to assure good governance for his community.
First, we pointed out the need to get acquainted with one’s barangay government. Second, we dealt with the need to get enfranchised or empowered as the sovereign citizens of the community—“its Bosses,” to quote PNoy Aquino—who have power over the officials, and how to wield said power for the Common Good.
This time, let’s take up the Third task, which is to Insist on professionalizing the operations of the Barangay Development Council (BDC).
Next to the Barangay Assembly, it is the second most important unit for developing the community. On the BDC’s performance depends whether it will have adequate facilities, amenities, and services. Its poor performance thus far generally accounts for the filth, the ugliness, or the disorder in the barangays. It’s time the community ensures that it will do its mandate properly.
The BDC’s composition needs to be reviewed; seeing to it that its members are selected in accordance the process prescribed by the Local Government Code (cf. R.A. 7160, Sections 107-115). At least one-fourth of its members are supposed to come from the ranks of civil society, chosen by their own members from among themselves.
Rarely do barangay chairmen observe or comply with this mandated procedure for selecting the BDC’s members. But no one in the community seems to notice it, let alone show concern. And since no one seems to care, let alone demand that it be complied with, the barangay simply carries on without proper development plans. Tolerating this deprives the community of the important contributions of NGOs to its development.
To correct this anomaly, the barangay needs to accredit the civil society groups within its jurisdiction and maintain an up-to-date list of same. Accredited groups should include civic clubs, people’s organizations, cooperatives, church groups, women circles, senior citizens’ chapter, youth clubs, others.
It’s also important to undertake a review of the BDC’s past performance. Did the previous government prepare a Comprehensive Multi-sectoral Development Plan as required by law? It is the barangay’s medium-term plan (five years or so) that’s supposed to become part of the over-all municipal, city, or provincial Plan—which in turn are to be incorporated into the upper-level Plans all the way to national level (Neda).
The barangay’s mandate to prepare this Plan jibes with the democratic principle that the planning process must begin from the ground up, instead of from the top as practiced in oligarchic regimes and autocratic states.
Preparing this Plan is supposed to be participatory, involving citizens’ groups and functional committees. It shouldn’t be formulated out by the officials alone. It is supposed to draw from the collective wisdom of the people in the community—for whose benefit all development plans are supposed to be designed.
The preparation of this Development Plan is often overlooked or half-baked. Where they do bother to prepare it, the officials rarely involve their constituents or elicit their ideas and contributions, preferring to improvise its details by themselves regardless of actual priorities.
As a results of this failure to involve the people: they may build an outsize auditorium for the games they like to play while school children make do with classes under a tree. They may construct cement-paved roads leading to the home of the chairman or mayor or favorite congressman while the farmers haul their produce on impassable trails.
Or they may purchase a vehicle for their own service needs, while no ambulance, dispensary, or health center tends to the health of families and the children. They’ll even build a cockpit instead of a rice or corn mill or a park for recreation. (to be continued)
(Manny Valdehuesa Jr. is a former Unesco regional director for Asia-Pacific and the PPI-Unicef’s awardee as outstanding columnist. He is chairman/convenor of the Gising Barangay Movement Inc.. E-mail: email@example.com)