October 29, 2007. Today, for the first time, I shall vote for public officials through the barangay elections.
The barangay government is said to represent the national government in delivering many of its basic services. It serves to provide the presence of the government at the grassroots level. Mong Palatino writes in his blog, “While national politicians can afford to neglect the daily tribulations of the people, barangay officials attend to these mundane concerns. May rumble sa kanto. Nag-away ang mag-asawa. May snatcher sa palengke. Kailangang may mag-ayos ng trapik sa parada. May hindi nagbayad ng utang. May gulo sa hatian ng lupa…” However, because of the inefficiency in the delivery of many government services, those like us who belong to the urban petty bourgeois, and the rest who can afford it, have come to dispose of much of our reliance on the barangay government. I honestly can’t think of how our barangay council has eased our family’s life. The barangay is there to cater to those who need it.
Barangay elections also serve the illusion that our elections are truly democratic. But in reality, this is one of, if not the only political arena the middle class, not even the most common Juan de la Cruz, can run for public office. The higher positions have always been reserved exclusive for the ruling elite. Even so, we see relatives and children of the elite penetrate the barangay level and for once, pose as members of their community and one with their less affluent neighbors, though we all know these are done as a stepping stones for higher public office positions, which in turn preserve their hold on to higher forms of rule.
Yesterday, I joined the campaign of one of my senior brods in the Upsilon who is running for a kagawad in a certain barangay in Quezon City. It was the first time I went in and around the large informal settlers’ community on the government land along NIA Road. Going around pitch dark and narrow alleys and seeing how excited people are meeting a man running for public office who have come down to their settlement to shake hands and talk, can be seen as an indication of how people remain to rely on the illusion that the government is present at the grassroots to help alleviate hardships in their everyday lives.