AS OCTOBER 30 COMES near, it is again time for the Filipino people to practice their right to suffrage. But this time, unlike the previous national-level elections, the focus is on a more micro- and grassroots level as the leaders to be chosen are for the Sangguniang Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) councils.
Before we head to the polls this coming Monday, The Bedan has found it best to revisit the history and the significance of this election season to the nation.
The Sangguniang Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan
The Barangay Election Act of 1982 or Republic Act (R.A.) No. 222 sought to initially establish a six-year term for the barangay officials and the SK, which ought to be the closest and smallest unit of government in the country. Thus, it allowed to have more grassroots-level leaders and be able to address the concerns of their constituents through the councils’ own initiatives and understanding of their local environment.
Another law responsible for the existence of the barangay and SK is the Local Government Code of 1991, which provided for the devolution of power from the higher levels down to the barangay, giving them authority to rule over their own localities. This includes having a local chief executive, called a punong barangay, possessing a mix of legislative, judicial, and executive powers.
The barangay and SK councils have their similar compositions of officials. The former consists of one Punong Barangay as well as seven kagawads. In contrast, SK officials must be around the age of 15 to 30 in order to be considered as part of the youth sector. However, their composition is similar to the Sangguniang Barangay as well. Overall, there are approximately 672,000 political positions up for grabs during this election, with 1.4 million candidates seeking to win in the country’s 42,000 barangays.
Myriad of postponements
For the past few months, the Barangay and SK Elections (BSKE) have faced a lot of postponements from Congress, as well as the Supreme Court (SC). The May 2018 BSKE came from the postponement of the October 2017 original date, which itself was also from an initial date of October 2016. The succeeding election, which culminated in the October 2023 BSKE schedule, was initially slated for May 2020. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was postponed to December 2022. However, as the 2022 BSKE drew near, Vice President Sara Duterte and certain lawmakers proposed re-scheduling it to 2024 as a “cost saving measure.” There were even plans to postpone it all the way to 2025, with the proposal emanating from the House of Representatives. Ultimately, a bicameral version of the bill postponing the December 2022 BSKE resulted in the final October 2023 schedule.
Just from that alone, it is important to note that the current barangay and SK officials who were elected on May 14, 2018, had already more than five years as their terms of office. Because of this unusual length of service, many local constituents have taken a look at those years and criticized whether or not they were able to fulfill more duties that what they could have accomplished in their initial three year-term. Experts have called on Filipino voters to “take this as an opportunity” to actually see who are the candidates that are truly deserving to promote the welfare of the barangay and the wellness of the youth.
From this barrage of successive postponements, a massive flock of aspirants filed Certificates of Candidacy (CoCs) for the October 2023 BSKE, as reported by Commission on Elections (COMELEC) spokesperson Atty. John Rex Laudiangco. From August 28 to September 2, more than 1.4 million prospects filed CoCs to fill in a total of 672,016 positions in the country’s more than 42,000 barangay units.
The challenges ahead
The BSKE is an important feature of the country’s democratic system, as it allows citizens to participate in local government affairs other than the perennial elections for city, municipal, and provincial posts. These kinds of elections give individuals a voice in shaping their future through further involvement in the policy-making sphere and ensuring that the citizens’ expectations are satisfied. This outcome can only be accomplished through choosing qualified and devoted candidates who can strengthen and unify communities in the pursuit of a functional and thriving democracy.
Barangay officials, although part of the smallest unit of government, serve as the forces of nation-building, poverty alleviation, and local development through social services and peace and order initiatives in their local communities. As stated in Section 384 of the Local Government Code of 1991, “As the basic political unit, the barangay serves as the primary planning and implementing unit of government policies, plans, programs, projects, and activities in the community, and as a forum wherein the collective views of the people may be expressed, crystallized and considered, and where disputes may be amicably settled.”
Aside from the Sangguniang Barangay, the COMELEC has also urged the youth to register for the SK elections, as this is another avenue for youth participation in government. SK officials play a massive part in shaping the youth’s minds through nation-building and contributing to national development. Despite the SK being criticized by some due to their lackluster platforms (the staging of local basketball leagues as an example), there have been also a handful of stories of triumph that show the council’s potential as an means that would open the minds of the youth in community engagement and awareness.
The people’s choice
At the end of the day, it all leads to one decision, and that is the people’s right to vote for the most promising and qualified candidate. Understanding the election process, the structure of the government, and the significance of participating in elections enables us as voters to make educated decisions that can contribute to the success and evolution of our barangays and the entire nation at large.
While it may not be selecting the next leaders of the country or the local leaders of your hometown city or province, your vote for the next barangay and SK officials would mean a lot, especially since you are the one familiar with what is happening in your closest environment. And besides, this kind of election does not occur that much and you should not miss any election in the country at all, whether it’s national or local.
Now, it is our time to exercise our right to vote. This October 30, it is our turn to reform the country’s system and promote good governance by choosing the Barangay and SK officials that we know could lead the community to greater prosperity. Make sure to prepare all the things needed during the election and know the candidates based on the credentials that you know are all deserving for a position and well–credited. Take note of your precinct. The COMELEC designed a website to find the designated precinct for each voter. Together, let us hope for a better system.