March 4, 2024

The 2023 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections (BSKE) will finally be held tomorrow, Oct. 30.
It will be recalled that the incumbent barangay officials are sitting on a hold-over capacity due to the postponements by law of past elections, the last of which was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court because the said law unduly and arbitrarily encroached on the electorate’s exercise of their constitutional right of suffrage. The SC ruled that the free and meaningful exercise of the right to vote, as protected and guaranteed by the Constitution, requires the holding of genuine periodic elections, which must be held at intervals which are not unduly long, and which ensure that the authority of government continues to be based on the free expression of the will of the electors.
The elected BSK officials shall only serve until 2025, or the remainder of the term of those who would have been elected in 2022. Thereafter, BSKE will be held in December 2025 and the elected officials shall serve for three years, as provided for by law.
Before the barangays were institutionalized under the Local Government Code (Republic Act 7160) as the government in the grassroots level, the officials were appointed by city or municipal governments where the barangays are situated. If we recall, there were only about 46 barangays existing in Baguio until the number was increased to 128 barangays sometime in the early ‘70s.
I remember that then City Mayor Luis Lardizabal designated one of his employees at the City Mayor’s Office, Pablo Amansec, to organize the barangay councils in the city by recommending who shall be appointed as barangay captains (as the chairpersons were initially designated) of the different barangays in the city.
I was recommended and appointed to head West Modernsite in Aurora Hill barangay. As barangay captains, we were given the responsibility of choosing the members of our respective barangay councils. We selected residents in the community who could render service voluntarily and without compensation or remuneration.
As initially conceived, a barangay did not receive any budget from the government. Barangay operations were pursued and executed through the spontaneous efforts and support of its residents, particularly the projects that were conceived of by the council after a consensus was arrived at in a community assembly. We were accountable to our constituents more than the city government which did not provide budgetary allotments for our projects. Most of the time, as barangay head, we covered any shortfall of funds for community activities.
During my term, we focused on the peace and order of the community, including the health and well-being of its members – settling marital disputes in unholy hours of the night; scheduling weekly community cleaning hours; whitewashing sidewalks; engaging in green revolution projects; sports programs – basketball competitions, fun-runs, board games; nightly “ronda” peacekeeping patrol; sourcing out uniforms for the athletes and the barangay “tanods” to include their whistles, batons and an outpost; and such other projects that resulted from intelligent “spiritual” discussions among the barangay social circles.
To emphasize, the success of barangay projects depended on the sheer support and cooperation of its residents and fund-raising projects. As a young lawyer, I rendered pro bono legal services to the residents. Our barangay had such an outstanding performance and we shared our good practices with our fellow barangay captains.
It was during my term as barangay captain that I was invited by the Baguio Midland Courier to write a column.
I made “Grassroots” as my byline and it became the forum of barangays in the city to share their projects. I was later on elected councilor as an additional representative of the barangays in the city. We alerted the city council of common concerns of the barangays regarding problems on water shortage and distribution, garbage collection, streetlighting, particularly of dark alleys, public transportation, and traffic. It seems like these concerns presently remain.
The integration of the barangays into the government bureaucracy, providing them with budgetary allocations with salaries and allowances of the officials, evolved the once apolitical and community-centered governance into another political arena and a staging point for a career in “public service” to higher positions – increased salaries, privileges, power, and fame.