Making a difference
For those who are not interested in voting today, saying they don’t know any of the candidates anyway, it’s good to remember the role played by barangay officials in our day-to-day lives.
Being the smallest unit of government, the barangay is supposed to lead the way in the efficient delivery of basic services. They are at the forefront of efficient garbage collection and are supposed to help the police in maintaining peace and order.
They are mandated by law to prevent squatting from the outset and assist victims of domestic violence. Ideally, they should help in encouraging livelihood and economic activities in the barangay. During emergencies, they are supposed to help in making the response speedy, efficient and equitable.
Over the years, unfortunately, too many barangay officials have become preoccupied with their authority to raise their own funds. This can be in the form of fees for various services, tolls on barangay roads and bridges, business permits and rent for agricultural equipment.
The result has been a thick tangle of red tape in many areas, with onerous fees collected at every unnecessary step of business processing. All enterprises in this country, from micro to large, have complained of red tape at the barangay level, often worsened by the injection of politics into the approval process.
This red tape has been one of the disincentives cited by public utility operators and foreign investors, including those considering big-ticket projects. It is one of the reasons why 10-minute processing of business permits will never happen in this country, even for ambulant fishball vendors.
The barangay fund-raising can be as opaque as the utilization of confidential and intelligence funds. In many parts of Metro Manila, for example, barangays collect parking fees without issuing official receipts. The rates are higher than in top shopping malls. In busy Divisoria and the tourist destination of Intramuros, the rates can go as high as P100 per vehicle. These funds go directly to the pockets of barangay officials, with zero auditing. Why is this allowed?
Instead of trying to win brownie points with barangay officials for their support during elections by