Extra Barongs

by Juan L. Mercado

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?

(Email: juanlmercado@gmail.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

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