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Post Mortem Analysis: The 2018 Barangay & Sangguniang Kabataan Elections

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As expected and as usual, the Barangay and Sangguniang elections yesterday, May 14, were marred with election-related violence, massive vote buying (up to Php3,000.00 per voter), all forms of political trickery (e.g., sample ballots), electoral machinations (i.e., disenfranchisement), andthe active participation of and interference by, the local and national politicians who are preparing for the 2019 elections.The latter apparently has been perpetrated by the administration party, PDP-Laban, of President Rodrigo Duterte, whoparadoxically was popularly elected by the peoplebased on the conventionalist platforms of anti-establishment, eradication of political dynasty and to stop the practice of political patronage.

Yesterday’s election was not only a “litmus test” of the administration’s sincerity in pursuing its platforms for change, but above all, it has also put into test whether it’s worth continuing having Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan officials in the 42,036 barangays in our country. Germane thereto, whether it is still necessary to have the “barangay”as the basic political unit or subdivision in our country.

In yesterday’s election, nearly 60 million Filipino voters casted their ballots to elect officials in the 42,036 villages across the country. Mindboggling indeed, there were 684,785 candidates that ran for village-level seats, while 386,206 ran for leadership posts in nationwide youth councils; respectively, to fill up the post of 336,328 elected barangay officials and equally 336,328 elected Sangguniang Kabataan officials. This once in three years’ electoral exercise had cost the taxpayers Php 7 billion (Php 5 billion alone was spent in printing materials by the COMELEC).

This election was supposed to be  NON-PARTISAN, EXPEDITIOUS and INEXPENSIVE as provided for in Section 38, Article VI of BP 881 (Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines). Sad to say, by all indications, yesterday’s election bore otherwise. According to PNP Chief, Oscar Albayalde, 33 people had been killed and 19 others wounded in several poll-related incidents. These casualties are in addition to the 18 incumbent local officials, four candidates, three former elected officials and eight civilians who died since the campaign season kicked off on April 4. And despite the gun ban during the campaign season, there had been numerous cases of violation that were recorded. Worst, out of the 42,036 barangays in the country, around 21,000 are drug-tainted and 40% of barangay captains are involved in drugs, according to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency. In fact, there were numerous incumbent barangay officials that ran in the election who were in the list of the PDEA identified as suspected narco-politicians.

The Philippines is the only country in the world that has a barangay,or village, that serves as an organic administrative political subdivision. In fact, its constitution isrecognized under the 1987 Philippine Constitution and the 1991 Local Government Code of the Philippines as a political unit.And in addition, thereto, a “youth council”, or Sangguniang Kabataan, (2016 R.A. 10742), which was the successor of the KB or Kabataang Barangay, or “village youth” that was established during martial law by President Ferdinand Marcos in 1975, was given the same legal recognition. In short, we are clearly and pathetically a nation that is politicized from top to bottom! Permeated in all the social levels of our society, politics has become the hoi polloi’s way of life – not only the nation’s hobby but a norm as it is part of our culture.

With that being said, one would say that part of the origin or root cause of the endemic and institutionalized graft and corruption in our countryis because of the barangay as the country’s basic political-administrative subdivision. Barangay is not a “grassroots democracy,” or to have a say in the government’s local, regional and national development plans. As manifested in this recent election, it is nothing but a “political apparatus”primarily to serve the interest of the local and national politicians and their political party in general.

In his fight against political patronage, political dynasty, illegal drugs, crimes and corruption, President Rodrigo Duterte has been right in his position that the barangay and the SK should be abolished. Evidently, as a symbol of his continued protestations against it, this was the reason why most likely he did not cast his ballot in yesterday’s election.  (By: Y. A. Joey Tugung | 05/15/2018)




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