When we last looked, the country had 42,008 barangays. National attention, however, focused on Barangay Central in Tarlac City.
That’s where president-to-be Benigno Aquino votes. “Come June 30, I may swear in Aquino as the 15th President of the Philippines,” barangay captain Edgardo Aguas thought. “I couldn’t agree more,” wrote Inquirer Columnist Michael Tan. “The barangay is, after all, our basic political unit, with a history that goes back to the pre-colonial period. Anthropologist Tan reviewed where barangay captains come from .
Cabezas de barangay evolved into gobernadorcillos, during the Spanish colonial regime, O.D.Corpuz shows in his two – volume work: “The Roots of the Filipino Nation,” (UP Press ) .By 1768, secret ballot and literacy requirements were introduced. And In 1907, national elections were held. Emmanuel Pelaez crafted, in 1950, the “Barrio Charter”
“Our elections continue to be elitist,” Tan adds “But we move from one election to another fairly smoothly (even if noisily)…from the barangay level up” — until President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s midnight appointments spree. T
She ladled jobs to her manicurist and gardener, among others.. And a quarter before midnight, she named Renato Corona as Supreme Court chief justice.
A departing President is a caretaker. Both the Constitution and practice confirmed that function for over half a century. Justice Manuel Moran waved away reappointment to the Supreme Court. Let the incoming president do that, Moran demurred with exquisite delicadeza.
Ms Arroyo does not have nodding acquaintance with delicadeza. She appointed Corona. Should I take my oath instead before a barangay captain?, Benigno Aquino wondered aloud
Corona could have declined, said ex-president Fidel Ramos. who first proposed him to the Court: Sure, add a score of constitutional experts from Ateneo’s Joaquin Bernas, former Ombdusman Simeon Marcelo, ex-senator Rene Saguisag to former chief justice Artemio Panganiban.
. Arroyo justices in stead obliged her with a “Cinderella exception” The constitutional ban on midnight appointments, during the election period, didn’t not cover the judiciary, they said. Today, Corona mounts a “media blitz” to justify the unjustifiable.
Corona “should not have gone on air.”, say critics led by UP professor Theodore Te . The Supreme Court speaks through decisions,.not press-cons. He could have said: No, thank you..“That would have prevented a controversy he is now bogged in.”
Aquino III may have to RSVP Barangay Captain. Edgardo Aguas He’ll probably hew to the oath-taking pattern set by Corazon Aquino, says former senator Victor Ziga.
Benigno’s mother ignored then chief justice Ramon Aquino of the subservient Marcos Supreme Court. Instead, Corazon took her oath before the senior justice Claudio Teehankee
Would Noynoy stare beyond Corona? Would he also pick the most senior justice?.:But that’d be Antonio Carpio. He’d have been chief justice, if not for the “Cinderella exemption”.
Symbols teach without words. Thus, the oath-taking debate is important.. “The gentleman understands righteousness,’ Confucius said. “But the petty man understands self interest,:”
The controversy also thrust forth the usually-forgotten barangay. Perhaps, the most perceptive insights come from Manuel Valdehueza. A former UNESCO regional director, Valdehueza heads the Gising Barangay Movement.
It is at the barangay where government interacts most with people, he says.. Accountability can be tangible here. But the world is schizophrenic at barangay level.
Upscale subdivisions, within barangays have homeowners’ associations. They fund services like garbage collection and maintain infrastructure. They enforce usually higher and stricter standards and regulations. “These are the rules of a civilized community.”
No standards seem to exist in the barangay proper. You want a sidewalk for a repair shop? Help yourself! Need to extend your wall? Go ahead! Go around half-naked or drunk? No problem. Lack toilet or water? It’s OK.
This is a fracture in our society. The elite carry on as if they had no responsibility beyond their compound. Those outside the gate are left to the mercies of traditional politicos. “They simply carry on in their parallel, mutually exclusive worlds. (Yet). It is here where reforms are most needed, where political education needs to be undertaken.
In Bacolod City, a yellow volunteer group earlier launched a project to get a barong tagalog to Aguas, reports Carla Gomez of Visayan Daily Star. Aguas need not rent a barong tagalog., Delia Locsin of the “Negrenses 4 Noy Mar” wrote. :
“Aquino’s swearing in before the head of the basic political unit..symbolizes his being the people’s president,” Ms Locsin said. N4NM raised funds to pay for the barong Tagalog of the barangay captain if he gets to swear Aquino in, Alex Ozoa of N4NM said.
“Within an hour of announcing ‘Project Barong Tagalog; by mobile phone, volunteers responded. Text messages pledged cash donations. Some asked for immediate pickup, Ozoa said. One N4NM offered to donate barong cloth from her home collection. Another offered to donate the interest from their time deposit.
Now Edgardo Aguas has a problem. What does he do with extra barongs in a fractured society?