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Cry of the barangay

Manny Valdehuesa

“SOVEREIGNTY resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.”

This constitutional dictum is under attack from, of all people, our putative representatives – congressmen and senators. We elected or re-elected them to represent our interests, to use our power judiciously. Instead they conspire to stifle our sovereignty or negate our authority over them.

How many times have they canceled the barangay elections, moving the date to suit their agenda?

It’s bad enough that the exercise of our sovereignty has been effectively limited to the act of voting every three years. Bad that we are marginalized and manipulated in-between elections. Worse that elections are suspended by unilateral action, depriving the community the right to decide who shall be in its government. Worst that all these are done without hearings or consultations.

This presumptuous behavior of our representatives in government is making a mockery of democracy and our right of suffrage. Some reason out that suspending barangay elections is a budget-saving measure, that it will lessen the national deficit. They must think we’re stupid! Barangay elections cost only a tiny fraction of projected national deficits, a drop in the bucket compared to the financial leaks and the waste and inefficiencies of bureaucrats.

Others say suspending barangay elections is meant to heal the divisive effects of previous elections, which they say were “very destructive (sic!) to relationships in the community.” If that were so, do they acknowledge what they’ve been denying all along: that in fact there was rampant vote-buying, cheating, and corruption then—and that what caused the rifts in community relations was the corrupt and divisive campaigns they waged?

How ingenious that they cite the “destructive” effects of their acts as an alibi for denying the operation of People Power through the vote!

What is the truth? The budget for the barangay elections was already in the General Appropriations Act—a programmed expenditure, not an unexpected expense. It was previously provided so Filipinos can exercise the sovereign right to choose their community’s public servants.

Congress in effect is saying that its act of managing public affairs on our behalf, or decide on our society’s priorities, is superior to our right of suffrage (which determines who shall act or decide on our behalf).

The truth is, they are placing personal agenda and political interests higher than the imperatives of the democratic process and the people’s sovereignty. Our Republic cannot be expected to survive as a democracy without the regular expression of the popular will.

The sovereign right to renew or reaffirm the mandate of our own community’s leaders is guaranteed by the Constitution and the Local Government Code. Both ordain that there shall be elections in every barangay at regular intervals, and to assure the regularity of these intervals.

Too long and too often have our public servants toyed with the rite of sovereignty and the rubric of democracy, both of which are reserved for the citizenry—the source of their power and authority. The act of canceling elections at the grassroots, without the people’s consent or approval, is sheer effrontery that must no longer be tolerated.

Local elections must take place regularly. This is the Cry of the Barangay, the basic unit of our Republic. And elections must be free of the divisive forces of traditional politics or trapos that conspire to cancel it.

If it is true that previous elections caused “division” and “destruction,” all the more reason to let the barangays, the basic foundation of our society, heal the hurts and assuage the resentments caused by the divisive or destructive practices. This healing will take place if—once and for all—we insist that everyone, especially the notorious trapos, strictly comply with Section 38 of the Omnibus Election Code, which states:

“The barangay election shall be non-partisan. No person who filed a certificate of candidacy shall represent or allow himself to be represented as a candidate of any political party, political group, political committee, civic, religious, professional or other organization or organized group of whatever nature; nor shall they intervene in his nomination or filing of his certificate of candidacy or give support xxxx for or against his camp@gmailaign for election xxx.”

Non-Partisan elections! This too is the Cry of the Barangay, the incubator of our national culture. Let not specious reasoning, technical nitpicking, or legalistic evasion sully the meaning of this much-abused statute.

Healing our sick nation must start with honesty, fairness, mutual respect, and trust within the barangay community—the primal home of Filipinos. Let the elections be the “homecoming” in which every Filipino relives and reaffirms his values as an honorable and God-fearing, citizen, one who knows how to assert his sovereignty and authority over public servants who dare to defy the popular will for whatever reason!

Let every Filipino heed the cry of the barangay!

 

(Manny Valdehuesa is chairman and national convenor of Gising Barangay Movement Inc.; E-mail: valdehuesa@gmail.com)

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TREND MAKER. Mindanao Gold Star Daily was established in 1989 to set ablaze a new meaning & flame to the local newspaper business. Throughout the years it continued its focus and interest in the rural areas & pioneered the growth of countryside journalism.

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