CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/11 October)–If corruption, bad governance, and official abuse can be said to be the political equivalent of evil, then it may help to remember that the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.
Everywhere, on all levels of our government, there’s evil galore—the result of corruption and bad governance spiraling up from the primal level of our Republic, the barangays.
Consider your own barangay and those around yours: big and small projects get built without the citizens’ involvement, participation, or approval. Frequently they’re not even informed or consulted. The officials do everything—planning, implementing—then claim credit for doing so. On top of that, there’s minimal transparency or accountability, and the principle of consent-of-the-governed is routinely violated.
What is it but corruption and bad governance when job orders are done without proper bids and awards; plans executed without proper evaluation or approval of its design or details; irregularities committed with impunity; wrongdoing unpunished; activities taking place without proper planning or approval; projects funded without proper budgeting; and budgets that are not scrutinized? Political evil.
Throughout the nation’s 42,078 barangays, the set up looks like a government of public servants, by public servants, and for public servants—while the citizens, their Boss, are reduced to mere spectators, with no real knowledge of what’s going on or how the servants manage the community’s resources.
A big part of the reason for the malfunctions in these basic units of government is the absence of civic interest, which now constitutes a curse on our political system.
For example, watch the turnout of barangay citizens in the synchronized barangay assemblies on Sunday, October 12. See if the good men and women of the community—the professionals, the affluent, the knowledgeable, the techno-savvy, the resource-rich, even the churchmen and their devotees—bother to attend.
Chances are most of the attendees will be overwhelmingly from the so-called D and E crowd—the lower classes, folks who readily fall for the pompous wiles of traditional politicians or trapos, the unfortunate victims of inveterate practitioners of patronage politics and cheating. In fact, many of them will be there for whatever they can get from the officials—snacks, food items, personal favors, assorted handouts.
Against their numbers, the few upright citizens who do show up are no match vote-wise on whatever issues are raised. Absent and uninvolved, the rest have no impact on communal decisions. Their failure to participate in their barangay’s governing process deprives the community of the benefit of their knowledge, experience, technology, or wisdom. The attitudes, ideas, and work ethic of these “good men and women” don’t figure in their community’s development and upkeep.
Otherwise respected men and women, they don’t affect the local political equation, roundly outvoted by the corrupt and highly corruptible in their own community. Only an insignificant few, or none at all, get involved in local civic activities or in communal planning and decision making. And yet, they can be the most vocal complainers of bad governance and official corruption.
Being truant citizens, they have no way to get their officials to come clean or be responsible. Their truancy also prevents the community from exercising its power of recall to remove or replace corrupt and incompetent officials.
So it’s no wonder that the tide of corruption and abuse in the barangays rises with the proliferation of greedy and corrupt officials and their dynasties—inundating the municipalities, cities, and provinces as they ascend the political ladder and infect the rest of the political system.
Just as with moral evil, the only thing necessary for political evil to triumph in the barangay is for the good men and women in them to do nothing!
Would it help to appeal to their civic sense and solicitude to exert a little effort and show up in their Barangay Assembly on Sunday, October 12?
Just their presence will help begin the effort to avert our political system away from the road to perdition. It would begin to remove the curse of truancy and its victimization of the innocent sectors of society who know no better than to kowtow to trapo importuning.
It would help also if they, influential as they are in their privileged social stations, can raise the troubling questions that cry out for answers.
For example, where do the millions in barangay revenues go? Why don’t they have facilities for senior citizens, for women, for children, for disabled, and so on. How about amenities like a library, a wi-fi spot, a computer or internet station, and clean and sanitary eateries and public toilets, and so forth? These aren’t questions the other folks can readily ask. (Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, Southeast Asia Publishers Association; director, Development Academy of Philippines; member, Philippine Mission to the UN; vice chair, Local Government Academy; member, Cory Govt’s Peace Panel; awardee, PPI-UNICEF outstanding columnist. He is president/national convenor, Gising Barangay Movement Inc. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org)