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Barangay: The Soul of Local Government Autonomy

21 September 2011

Speech-Government-AutonomyAddress of Senator Bongbong Marcos
Liga ng mga Barangay’s 1st General Assembly
Heritage Hotel Manila

As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government and the Committee on Urban Planning, Housing and Resettlement, let me extend my warmest congratulations to the organizers of this assembly with a Theme: Moving Forward From 20 Years Of Local Government Autonomy.”

Let me begin by way of a trivia – that our country belongs to several countries in the world that incorporated the local autonomy to their respective constitutions.

There are historical, geographical and socio-political reasons for the implementation of local autonomy in our country.

Geographically speaking, the Philippines consists of thousands of islands and hundreds of ethnic groups with different languages and cultures. The population of over 90 Million is spreading over vast areas and often in remote islands resulting in varying demands and approaches and services as response to quite diverse needs.

Thus, a decentralized system of governance becomes naturally a logical system for such, tension due to religious issues and ethnic conflicts particularly in Mindanao further complicates the situation. Hence, the enactment and the implementation of the 1991 Local Government Code, as prescribed by the 1987 Constitution in recognition of this local diversity and in order to guarantee that local needs would be well taken care of.

Theoretically, local autonomy would provide an opportunity for the local government to take care of its own interest; however, in practice, and as we have recommended it over the past 20 years, the implementation autonomy has not been as successful and as smooth as expected due to a range of local and national problems, such as mediocre economic growth, other socio-political concerns like rising incidence of crime, corruption and uncertainties of clear future directions. The readiness or capabilities of the local governments to exercise new responsibilities in response to the greater autonomy, as provided by the local government code, has been observed to be far from effective and efficient.

With the implementation of devolution, as an integral part of the local autonomy act, the functions and responsibilities awarded to local executives that include not only the provisions of basic services, but also the management of natural resources, are now in the hands of the local leaders like you, much less, the task of planning for your local boundaries.

Furthermore, the management of this wide range of functions needs to be backed up with good financial support, skilled human resources, and, to say the least, improved infrastructure. Unfortunately, this necessary backup has been slow in coming!

It should be noted that under the concept of local autonomy, each local government is expected to regulate the structure and institute democratic governance at the lowest level through the barangays, in which the prime movers are the barangay leaders.

Speaking of the barangay, let us revisit the past. If you will recall, my father, former President Ferdinand E. Marcos, issued Presidential Decree No. 86 on December 31, 1972, creating the citizen assemblies in each barrio, municipalities and cities: “to broaden the base of citizen participation in the democratic process and to afford ample opportunities to express their lives on important national issues; later, P.D. No.557 amended the barrio charter and change the barrio into the barangay as the basic political unit.”

In describing the barangay, allow me to quote my mother and now representative of Ilocos Norte, Imelda R. Marcos, former minister of human settlements when she said in an interview: “the institution that President Marcos founded in this country was not anchored on the institution of democracy like America; but, anchored it on natural law, god’s fundamental law. Our democracy, perhaps the only democracy in the world anchored on natural law, The smallest unit of society is the family, and the extended family is the barangay.”

Even though, the barangay is the smallest political unit, yet it is looked upon as the most powerful unit as it is the most basic in Philippine democracy.

During the pre-hispanic time, the term for a village leader was “Datu” and then changed to a Cabeza de Barangay during the spanish times; then shifted to Tenyente Del Barrio. After d.o. No. 557, the title was changed to barangay captain and now Punong Barangay as termed in the 1991 local government code, with power vested by the 1973 and 1987 constitution reforming its functions of executive, legislative and judiciary. Thus the Barangay Chairman or Barangay Captain is now considered as very crucial component in the democratic leadership in our society.

Your executive power includes enforcing of laws and ordinances; as presiding officer in the Sangguniang Barangay you are dispensing power as legislator by enacting ordinances; and as head of Punong Tagapamayapa, you are exercising a quasi-judicial power and has the authority to mediate and amicably settle disputes between or among members of the barangay.

This fusion of powers of the three branches of government -- executive, legislative and judiciary, into the person of a barangay head places you in a very important level in the political totem pole in our government.

The duties and responsibilities of barangay leader seem endless because, being the chairman of peace and order council, your are also a “chief of police” in your area of jurisdiction with the assistance of your Barangay Tanod; not only that, you are also the “BIR” as provided by section 152 of Local Government Code of 1991: “barangay may levy taxes, fees and charges…which shall exclusively accrue to them.”

Sa totoo lang, kayo rin po ang doktor sa baryo: kasi 24-hours po ang inyong serbisyo—kahit anong oras ng gabi, may kumakatok—para lamang humingi ng bigas at magpahatid sa ospital.

That is why, during the deliberations of the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) fund in the senate plenary hearing, I pushed hard for the proactive participation of barangay leaders and local government executives to ensure the success of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino program of this administration.

Alam po ninyo, ang ating lider sa barangay—ang siyang may alam at mulat sa tunay na sitwasyon sa ating paligid. Kayo po, ang pundasyon at haligi ng demokrasya at serbisyo publiko.

Ang sabi nga nila, ang barangay po ang kaluluwa at susi sa epektibong implementasyon ng awtonomiya.

Mareresolba lamang ang iba’t ibang problema sa ating lipunan kung direktang kabalikat ang ating mga lokal lider tulad ninyo.

Kumbaga, kayo po—mga lokal lider, partikular ang mga opisyal at miyembro ng liga ng mga barangay ang mga sundalong nasa front line—nakapain ang buhay. Pag nagbarilan—kayo ang unang tatamaan.

Pero kayo rin po ang tunay na gamot at sustansiya sa isang malusog at matatag na republika.

Alam ko madami pa kayong gustong iparating sa akin sa senado. Kaya dito po ako matatapos muna.

Magandang tanghali po at maraming salamat. Mabuhay ang liga ng mga barangay!