OFFLINE: Why I am not voting in the barangay elections

For obvious reasons, I am not voting in the Sangguniang Kabataan elections. But I am also not voting in the barangay elections, which will be held in a few days.

My reason is simple. In my somewhat learned view, barangay elections are a waste of time. This electoral exercise was invented by the father and namesake of the current president so many decades ago, and they did nothing but merely add another layer in the already bloated government bureaucracy.

Also, the late dictator had a more devious reason in breaking down cities and towns into smaller political bodies, which he called barangays. This was to help local warlords maintain political control over their turf.

The barangays were to be headed by a barangay captain, and he or she would be the eyes and ears of the local warlord when election time came, and the barangay officers would accept the bribes that are part and parcel of Philippine politics.

Before they were created, local government units were doing just fine, thank you.

The first few barangay elections went as expected. The local folks who found themselves with a modicum of power slowly began to assert their “authority” in their neighborhoods. And he or she would not be alone, as secondary officials would also be elected.

The kagawads were the worst of them as they believed themselves to have police powers over their area. They would walk around swinging their batons and pointing out the smallest “mistakes” that their neighbors committed, such as not covering their garbage cans or allowing their dogs to run around unleashed.

For the most part, these kagawads were the unemployable men of the village. The local term for them would be tambays. In the worst cases, they would ask or even demand little bribes like free shots of cheap gin or maybe beer in the richer neighborhoods.

As far as I was concerned, all barangay officials were to be tolerated. I saw no need to befriend them, and don’t recall ever asking any one of them for any favors or whatnot.

I was aware that there were instances when disagreements between neighbors would be settled with the help of the kapitan de barangay. Maybe someone parked his car or tricycle too close to his neighbor’s front gate. Or maybe the drinking party would get a little too loud for comfort. Heck, even a frustrated Sinatra singing My Way again and again would be reason to raise a complaint before it got out of hand.

My main concern here is that most of them had little if any formal training in the intricacies of the law. Yet they served as mini judges who would usually side with those whom they knew best.

And if the concept of a neighborhood being converted into a barangay was not bad enough, the Makoy government had the even dumber idea of bringing the country’s youth into the game.

The Sangguniang Kabataan of youth barangay was created to make sure that all the sons and daughters of local bosses become properly politicized, and to be loyal to the government, of course.

The SK was supposed to be the training ground of future barangay officials, who in turn would be the foundation of city and town officials, from mayor down to councilors.

The worst part was that all barangay and SK officers are entitled to some form of pay or stipend as they are considered as government employees of sorts.

No qualifications are needed as far as I know. Anyone can therefore be a barangay captain or kagawad or whatever else positions they created.

Barangays thus became the breeding ground of frustrated politicians, those who were not known enough to become mayors or congressmen, but who wanted to act like one.

Theoretically, they are not supposed to belong to political parties, but this is not followed. Most men and women who seek to become barangay captains will ask their mayors or congressmen to support their bids.

This is another source of trouble.

It is no secret that Filipinos seeking elective office will do anything to win. They will spend large amounts of money because they know they can recoup their investments with a few construction projects in their turf.

They may not earn as much as corrupt mayors or congressmen, but they can still earn a pretty penny within the time that they are officially little bosses of their communities.

In the run up to the coming elections, the Commission on Elections has already caught large numbers of candidates who have spent more than they should. These are the bets who have huge tarps extolling their virtues.

The poll body is facing a losing war on multiple fronts. It has made the usual vote buying practice illegal, but still many candidates do their best to work around the rules.

In some cases, the local bets give away cans of sardines to residents of poor communities. Nothing wrong here per se, right? But then they also tape P1,000 bills to the side of the small cans. Illegal, definitely, but don’t ask the recipients to tell the Comelec of the practice.

I don’t know what the bets for SK are doing, but if they are children or relatives of the local politicos, they will simply let their folks handle their campaigns. And it’s a safe bet that the oldies will resort to the old tricks to win the electorate over.

What’s most disturbing about the coming elections is that there are many areas considered as hot spots. Already there are news reports of local bets being shot, with their opponents being main suspects.

The silliness of barangay elections will soon be over, until next time. By then, the newly-elected officials will be planning their projects by which they hope to recover the big bucks they spent to get elected.

I can do nothing to eradicate the bureaucracy that is the Philippine barangay, but I can make a suggestion.

Instead of barangay captains being elected, why not have councilors elected by district instead of at large? They can serve as captains of their localities over and above their duties as city or municipal councilor.

This way, the national government can save millions of pesos wasted on the payroll of barangay officials.

It won’t happen, of course. Not with the concept already entrenched in the country’s body politic. And not with the current president restoring everything his father created, including the most useless ones like Kadiwa stores.

As for me, I take great pride in never, ever having voted in all the barangay elections ever held. There are a million ways to make better use of my time.