Another Election Day

TODAY many of us will go to the polls to vote for our village and youth council leaders. Unfortunately, many if not most, will stay at home or go to the malls. Who cares about village elections? Why vote in the first place for people one does not know?

A barangay, also known by its former Spanish adopted name, the barrio, is the smallest administrative division in the Philippines and is the native Filipino term for a village

When the first Spaniards arrived in the 16th century, they found the Filipinos having a civilization of their own and living in well-organized independent villages called barangays. The name barangay originated from balangay, a Malay word meaning “sailboat”.

Historically, a barangay is a relatively small community of around 50 to 100 families. Most villages have only thirty to 100 and the population varies from one hundred to five hundred people.

It is commonly believed that in pre-colonial Philippines, each original coastal “barangay” formed as a result of settlers arriving by boat from other places in Southeast Asia.

I live in a village somewhere in Quezon City. I go home there in the evening and leave early in the morning for work. During weekends, I leave for out of town or spend time with friends in some other place. I never had an encounter with village officials.

Our subdivision takes care of the streets, the lights, the garbage, the clean-up drive against dengue, etc. I haven’t heard village officials doing it or encouraging us to do it. I only hear about our village during elections or when, outside the subdivision, there’s a traffic jam and some good-for-nothing village tanod worsens the situation.

So who cares about village elections? The streets in the village are potholed, the lights are always out, garbage are not collected and there seems to be a growing number of incidents of crime in the area.

It’s different, of course, in the provinces. People know each other. One runs to the village chief or to village officials for one’s needs. Village leaders are one with the people. They visit homes, they ask how you are, they help in the village chapel during the priest’s visit, they get drunk with the villagers, they are the people’s link to the system.

For what have our youth council leaders done these days? I remember the days of the Kabataang Barangay when every young person in the village is busy with one thing or the other. There were sports competitions, there were cultural shows, there were education campaigns, there were a lot of things to do.

What have our village leaders done except build those “welcome” arcs all over, put up posters but not street lamps and street names?

There’s a lot to be improved in the system. There’s a lot to be worked on. Village leaders and the youth council should prove themselves worthy of being elected. They should prove worthy of their existence. If not, it’s better to spend all the millions of pesos for elections on projects the will benefit the public.

We hope that the turnout of voters today will justify the existing system of this basic unit of our political system. If not, then maybe it’s time to think of its abolition and eradicate this one source of corruption. Joe Torres


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