Key words: Community governance, community council, Barangay, Bario,
During a visit to the Philippines, I discovered that they had adopted a unique way of solving some of the country's problems by devolving power and responsibility to the community level through a new political entity known as a barangay, or bario in smaller centres.
Basically, a Barangay is a sub order of municipal governance equivalent to a district which coexists within the framework of a typical larger municipal structure and which has been formally adopted throughout the Philippines. In the context of small population centres, where only one level of government exists, it is called simply bario, or village.
The unit comprises approximately 2,000 people (usually a few city blocks), is self governed by a council consisting of 8 councillors headed by a captain and is responsible for local projects and controls.
It seemed like a beautiful system that involved friends and neighbours rather than remote politicians at city hall, and that involved community police rather than impersonal authority figures. A multicultural city like Toronto might derive great benefit from these concepts.
When I returned, and began to reflect on the connection between what I had seen and my work in connection with community involvement in recycling, I thought it would be worthwhile to document this system. Having no references on the subject, I turned to the Internet and received the information contained in the following pages, mostly in the form of letters or articles. My own notes and editing is indicated with square brackets thusly  or [B] and I have added titles in accordance with my understanding of what I received. On the presumption that others may be curious about the Internet, some of the original formatting, system messages, etc. remain.
Bob InnesSubject: Barangays - good idea for Canada?
Summary: antidote to cynical electorate
Keywords: small political unit, barangay
MARCOS & PRE MARCOS
[I was originally told that a barangay was originally a Malay village unit formed for mutual protection. Another source thought that the Barangay or Bario was developed under Spanish rule and involved important religious responsibilities.B]
Bob, let me give you some facts about barangay.
Barangay was [re]introduced by president Marcos back in the early 70's after martial law was declared. His idea was decentralization of political, social and economic problems around the country.
In the beginning, the captain and councillors were appointed by the mayor. This was a top-down approach with lots of pros and cons. Since the barangay council members were appointed by the city mayor, they [too often] backed-up the mayor on decisions affecting the barrio/barangay. Also, a lot of politicians got mad because they were taken out from the picture taking (ie.money making) activities and their popularity was diminishing.
After 2 years of implementation, politicians went into the picture again. They insisted that barangay and the council selection should be through election. [see the following]
**** all the best, danny
The 1991 Local Government Code is one of the landmark legislations ever passed in Philippine Congress during Aquino's term. Basically, this decentralization law has three features: it devolves power, authority, and growth (in a grand effort to restore democracy lost during the Marcos years).
Decentralization among different levels of local govt
units (LGUs) from provincial to barangay varies to certain degrees. On the whole, the barangays implement municipal ordinances, however, the Code also devolved the following responsibilities to the barangays:
1) agricultural support services through a distribution system for agricultural and fishery inputs and the operation of agri and fishery produce collection and buying stations;
2) health and social welfare services, through the maintenance of barangay health and daycare centres;
3) service and facilities related to general hygiene and sanitation, and solid waste collection;
4) administration of the barangay court;
5) maintenance OF BGY. roads, bridges and water supply systems;
6) infra. facilities such as multi-purpose halls, pavements, plaza, sports centre, etc.
7) information and reading centre
8) satellite public market (where viable).
These [requirements] do not limit the barangay from doing other things [such as community policing - no uniforms or firearms - dog catching, teen curfews if in force, etc.]
Taxing powers of the bgy include:
1) taxes on stores or retailers with fixed businesses with gross sales
receipts of P50,000 or less
2) service fees or charges for services rendered in connection to regulation or use of BGY owned properties such as dryers;
3) fee for issuance of BGY clearance for any business located or
conducted within the BGY.
4) fees for commercial breeding of fighting cocks
5) cockfights and cockpits
6) places of recreation with admission fess
7) billboards and signboards
8) community tax (P5.00)
However, the bgys get shares of taxes levied by the municipal or
provincial taxes if such resources are extracted from the BGY.
RAMOS ADMINISTRATION (present)
Rey Estrada (email@example.com) wrote:
Another important progress is the Local Gov't Code. This was enacted in the administration of Cory but has found its active implementation in the current administration. This is significant in the sense of devolving the local gov'ts (provincial, city, municipal) from the central gov't. This came about when Lito Osmena called the Manila gov't the "Imperial Manila" as all revenues of the local gov'ts are siphoned off to the central govt and this is where all the politicking and elbowing starts... you have to be well connected to the central govt to have sufficient allocation for your province and city.
Now, with the new law, revenues generated locally are not totally remitted to the central govt. The local govt can now retain a portion (if I am not mistaken in a graduated manner up to 60%) to finance their own development plans... This way, decongesting Manila, can take place as other urban centres can now develop and provide the necessary infrastructures for investments to come in.
.... Rey, Cebu City, Philippines
PROBLEMS - CONFUSION
From: Lauran R. Schultz ("DZ476@CLEVELAND.FREENET.EDU")
Date: Thursday, January 5, 1995 7:37 am
Hi- Saw your post. Living in Manila I'm sceptical about the barangay concept. It seems to me to leave incredible room for corruption.
A lot their myths about community-accountability are put into practice in the Local Government Act which was brought in under Aquino. This legislation returns power to communities, gives them room to enact their own taxes and pass their own laws. So far, it seems to have mostly generated confusion and corruption. In 93 the city of Manila was trying to enact a tax on all gasoline that passed though the City. Since much of the gas is delivered on the Pasig [River flowing through Manilla] for all of central Luzon this amounted to a tax for Manila on almost the entire region. A tour operator also told me that whereas once upon a time he only had to payoff the Department of Tourism to get things accomplished, he now needs to be licensed (so-to-speak) by every municipality and barangay through which his buses pass.
That's my take, anyhow. lauran schultz
From (firstname.lastname@example.org (Teodauro Rosario)
Just like any legislation, the barangay concept was instituted with [good] intentions in mind, and IMO [in my opinion] it was, and still is a good [concept]. In fact, it can be applied to any over-populated area where government resources are so limited that it could no longer meet the needs of the people. The idea of delegating some governmental authority and responsibility should, in concept at least, resolve the local problems.
Now, the catch. It was implemented without the benefit of a trial
period wherein test areas should have been designated and the
concept allowed to prove itself for a period of time. Selection
of the leaders [in the original setup during Marcos' administration] was worse than the regular election process, i.e., the candidate's character, education, past performance, or leadership ability were not considered important factors. The result, therefore, was just a small-scale version of government corruption.
That is not to say that this program should be scrapped. On the
contrary, if improvements leading to a better administration
can be introduced and be responsive to the needs of the
community, it may even provide the seeds by which the people
can actively and honestly participate in their government.THE PESSIMISTIC VIEW - CORRUPTION
I don't know much about political organizations in the
Philippines just what I have heard about what has been happening in my
wife's bario which is a small rural bario of the town of Palompon, Leyte.
My father in law had been a councillor there for the past 35 years until
this year when he lost in the May elections. The trend of vote buying
there is becoming more
prevalent and he refused to buy any votes. While he was councillor he was responsible for keeping track of the treasury and he uncovered an embezzlement going on. The barangay captain had been taking money that had been collected for projects and using it for himself. My father in law presented this evidence to town officials and also had it broadcasted from a radio station in Cebu. But, nothing has been done about it yet. The
barangay captain even won the reelection. Also all the bario officials are now from the same family giving them complete control of the bario. On top of that my father in law has had death threats made against him by members of this ruling family.
I think the barangay concept was a great thing before the society became industrialized. But now with the extreme poverty in many areas in the Philippines it leads to too much corruption. People trying to survive to the next day can't think too far into the future. Most people would vote for someone that give them some money rather that voting for someone who could improve living conditions in the future.
When we were there this past summer it seemed like the poverty situation was getting worse. Even though there is an fertilizer plant and a smelter in an industrial zone a few miles away most of the people in the bario are unemployed and supporting themselves through fishing and farming. This industrial zone has created many jobs and the town of Isabel, Leyte where it is located and has one of the highest per capita income levels in the province. However, these jobs are going mostly to the educated people. Many of the people in the barrios have not been able to afford to complete high school forcing them to fend for themselves.
I have heard from residents in this bario that the industrial plant is dumping large amount of pollutants including heavy metals into sea and this is reducing fishing yields and making the people poorer. The point being that as these people get poorer they will be more and more likely to vote for someone that will give them money and this will just lead to more and more corruption.
... Teodauro Rosario
[My guess is that the leaders of the country will eventually conclude that eliminating corruption is in their best interest.]
THE OPTIMISTIC VIEW - LEADERSHIP
The good thing is that with such a scope of responsibilities, you can weed out "traditional politicians" or trapos who doesn't do any good for the community; the people can tell if their barangay leaders are good or not from comparison with nearby barangays. Then from a political point of view, it would be good (if you're the barangay captain) for your political career if you excel.
While the system of governance under the new Code isn't perfect in terms
of administrative performance, our government is in the process of fine
tuning it. What is important i guess at this moment is getting the
right leadership, not just the old trapos who are generally corrupt. It
distinguishes the "men" from the "boys". which is actually what is good
about the coming local elections in May '95 in the Phils. It would be nice
to see the change in the local leadership, the composition of elected leaders
and their backgrounds, how many percent are reelected,
are they the new breed? and so on.
Yeyyy!! Some good news at last. By that I mean this new breed of leaders with their positive qualities. What exactly are they doing that's exemplary? And how is this helping the community? Can anything be done to install more of these people all over the country?...Rey, Cebu City, Philippines
- AND VISIBILITY
Rey Estrada (email@example.com) wrote:
Collection of taxes is critical to the effectiveness of a government for without the income, programs cannot be financed. Question, is the government accountable for these taxes and where it is spent? [Apparently, relatively few Filipinos participate in the market economy where taxes are paid.]
I think everyone will be more than willing to pay their due share of taxes if they can see the returns for that hard-earned money. No one in his right mind would part with his money knowing that someone else will benefit from it. The barangay system is IMO an excellent environment to educate, inform, and interact.
Are there any proposals to overhaul the barangay system? I like the concept but checks and balances should be made part of it.
: Rey : Cebu City : Philippines
SOLUTION - PARTICIPATION
firstname.lastname@example.org (Jim Ayson) wrote:
In social gatherings there is always this political/economic discussion, the drift of it being "how inept our politicians are" ... "how wrong has the gov't decided on this and that". This is normally moderated by someone who a has a strong propensity to talk and talk.. In fact, the word NATO means something else now (No Action..Talk Only).
The malaise in our society is that nobody cares to take an active role. If only the middle class will take an active participation in the affairs of govt (especially in the barangay level where currently there is total lack of managerial... If only the taxi drivers, the jeepney drivers and the market vendors will pay income taxes.. if only businessmen, doctors, lawyers pay their taxes correctly... if only witnesses will stand up to crimes committed..IF ONLY...
But there are bright specks of light in the horizon.. The economy was
seen to have a 5.5% GNP growth in '94. Inflation is at 7% (correct me if
I am wrong). The liberalization of foreign currency was implemented and
so is the liberalization of banking.. opening the entry of foreign banks.
The power-crisis was solved by the innovative BOT scheme (an excellent
solution). More importantly, we are witnessing the emergence of new
breed of leaders ... populist in nature but strongly future-looking and
great implementors.. I point out Dick Gordon in Subic, "Dirty Harry" Mayor
Lim of Manila, Bitay Lacson of Bacolod and in
Cebu, Tom and Lito Osmena (credited for Ceboomm..)
The modest achievements we had can be further sustained and increased
IF ONLY the citizenry will make democracy work. Having the solutions is
not enough. Everyone should PARTICIPATE... And where can one better do
this than in the barangay or in your village .. subdivision.
[The Internet indicates who is talking with marks preceding "old" text. To eliminate confusion, I've replaced this with B> for myself and N> for Nick]
Nick Jay (Nick.Jay@prisoner.seuk.com) wrote: Mabuhay Bob!
interesting thread [conversation on the Internet].: Daghang salamat. : Sige : Nick
N> I've just visited a great many barangays on my travels.
B> I understand there are problems accounting for money targeted for
local projects disappearing or being used for bribery.
N>I suppose that in some barangays it possibly does go 'unaccounted' for but I doubt that would be true in the smaller barangays ... although I have no experience or in-depth knowledge of that one way or the other. It's a good idea in theory though and if it works, would be a good thing IMO.
B> The unit is made up of 8 (apparently underpaid) councillors &
N> Indeed. I've met and/or been introduced to the council members and captains in Himo-Aw and Hilongos, Bato, Tugas and several other local barangays in southern Leyte, including the mayors and several captains and their barangay tanod etc.
B> ..and is responsible for local projects, community policing, dog
catching, teen curfews if in force, garbage collection, etc. N>
Community policing, dispute arbitrations and so on seems to work exceedingly
well. I wasn't aware that they catch dogs or enforce teen curfews however.
Mind you, I wasn't aware teen curfews were 'enforceable' or in effect.
B> Any ideas how to bring this "third world" idea to a major N.
N> No ideas at all how it might work in other countries that have no experience of such 'schemes' but as I've already said, it seems to work very well in the Philippines in my view and certainly the personal touch, where the people know the officials and they know their own community, seems to be the way to go.
... appreciated. Sige at ingat Nick
The following gives some background on the Toronto situation which may explain why I got interested in the idea.
There are over 4 levels of government here:
Federal, 25M people
Provincial as in Ontario, 8M,(= Cavite, Manilla too
Regional as in Metro Toronto, 2M,(= Manilla)
Municipal as in City of Toronto, 1M (= Makati)
Metro Toronto (Metro) and the 6 Cities within it split responsibilities, sometimes not very effectively (ie garbage collection by the cities and garbage disposal by Metro). Growth since Metro's boundaries were set has filled in most of the former gaps between cities and has begun to overflow the boundaries and bump up against the surrounding cities. Accordingly, a 5th intra-regional layer has begun forming called the Greater Toronto Area/Authority (GTA) to coordinate such things as transportation, landfill siting, etc.
However, a referendum recently put forward by the City of Toronto calls for the elimination of Metro (58% voted yes) in response to which, various media writers called for the elimination of the cities (1 mayor instead of 7, etc.).
Other relevant factors:
* Feds and provinces nearly bankrupt, putting pressure on Metro and city budgets (reduced transfers)
* high welfare & unemployment costs
* racial tensions in Metro (police issues)
* wide perception of failed public services - police, education, health care, etc.
Against this backdrop, the idea of handling the truly local issues on a local basis seems very attractive. For instance, if the cities were abolished, rather than leaving a huge central bureaucracy to handle mundane local problems, adopting a barangay concept could be an ideal solution.
I also heard in this discussion, that there has been some development
of this concept in North America ....
From: "Shirley A. Johnson" <email@example.com>
Organization: CallAmerica, San Luis Obispo CA USA:
The western world has an equivalent of the "Barangay" concept. It's called "Communitarianism", the believers are of called communitarians. Two Americans who believe in Communitarianism are Jack Kemp and Colin Powell. MISCELLANEOUS
Though not directly related to this discussion, the following comment
caught my eye...
Steve Brenne (firstname.lastname@example.org) wrote:
You know, there is no welfare system in the Philippines. You either support yourself, your kids or relatives support you, or you start begging, or you die.
While this comment was in a passage primarily linking poverty and corruption, the notion that people can actually survive without welfare is not accepted in North America. Although I did observe some begging in Manilla (not much more than Toronto), the first two options Steve mentioned seemed much more popular than the last two. The relevance of welfare to such "modern" concepts as recycling can best be explained by observing that in the Philippines, recycling is achieved through "old fashioned" or "natural" economic activity rather than through government fiat.
Many people now question the wisdom of centrally directed social assistance. The West, and especially Canada, is going broke under the yoke of dependency and profligacy, and the East sees welfare as ridiculous. In fact, the probable ultimate collapse of the social assistance system in the West, is one very strong reason for my interest in this area - if the government is broke, the community will have to step in and what better mechanism than the barangay. I understand that around the world, there are also increasing numbers of NGO's (non government organizations) stepping in to fill the gap.
One final comment from a participant in the discussion:
The people deserve the kind of government they vote for.