EDITORIAL: Partisan politics and the reality of the barangay elections

A striking aspect of last week’s local elections in Palawan was the nonchalant manner by which partisan political groups, at the conclusion of the barangay and SK elections, flaunted victories and acknowledged losses by counting how many seats they have won or lost.

In the city of Puerto Princesa, the administration casually proclaimed that it had won majority of the seats of barangay captains, short of declaring it had campaigned openly, a practice prohibited under Section 38 of the Omnibus Election Code. Administration officials quickly proclaimed that their political alliance Bigkis, loosely dubbed “Kuridas”, had won a huge margin over its perceived opposition.

“Now, 54 barangay captains have joined the administration and only 12 are still outside the fold,” Mayor Lucilo Bayron told reporters during the mass oath-taking of barangay officials last week. He also issued a call encouraging the 12 remaining barangay captains “outside the fold” to join the administration.

As we understand the context of this statement, Mayor Bayron was stating that the delivery of basic services, or governance in the barangay level for that matter, is better facilitated if its leaders are allied somehow with City Hall. Logically, it implies that when a barangay captain is perceived by City Hall to be politically hostile, such performance of roles and duties by either side is difficult to realize.

Mayor Bayron’s exact quote was this: “I think it would be easier now. Last time, some of the barangay officials did not really submit, so governing the city was quite challenging. With the other party losing clout, maybe those still in opposition would soon jump ship.”

And finally, a parting shot at those outside the perceived fold: “Let’s accept the idea that they have no choice but to join with us.”

The party outside City Hall’s fold is none other than that of the ousted administration and its allies. They too casually went on record with Palawan News to state that indeed they had “lost” a significant number of barangays who used to have barangay captains who were allied with them politically.

What this factual accounting of narratives implies is that the barangays, not just in the City of Puerto Princesa, are and has always been an appendage of local political conflicts. The legal framework that is intended to insulate the smallest administrative unit of government in this country is simply not making the impact it intended to happen.

Depending on who one asks, this state of affairs is either good or bad, realistic or an unfortunate curse upon us all.

The bottom line that should concern those who are non partisan is how a politicized atmosphere for barangay governance can execute the delivery of basis services to the communities. Like it or not, it is inevitable that the barangays and the barangay elections will always be influenced by electoral politics and political interests.

This also behooves the need for pro-active solutions, on the part of agencies like the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and other frontline departments that closely interact with the barangays, of finding ways and putting in place the necessary policy measures to ensure that the ultimate needs of the communities are somehow addressed, with or without partisan politics getting in the way.

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