Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Barangay officials get tricky

This is my column today.

There has been this mad rush to get people to register so they can vote in 2010. Apparently the rules for registration have been relaxed because it seems the registration is being conducted just anywhere—rom community centers, to buses, to churches. Just the other night, I saw a report on television about how representatives from the Commission on Elections conducted registration right at the television studios for the benefit of our local celebrities who were more than willing to mug for the cameras all in the spirit of civic mindedness and exercising one’s citizenship duties.

Certain politicians have made voter registration their current pet advocacy. I think urging people to register and to exercise their right of suffrage is a commendable idea. I just don’t think pushing such an advocacy while being actively involved in one’s own political campaign is such a great idea because it smacks of vested political interest.

I hope that the Comelec has safeguards in place to avoid the preponderance of flying voters in 2010 because it seems people are registering left and right. And it looks like it has become a numbers game for many barangay officials—it’s as if there is now a race among barangays as to who can produce more newly-registered voters. The problem is that many barangay officials have apparently come up with schemes tied to the registration campaign that suspiciously looks like mechanisms to track voters during elections.

My older sister is a registered voter in Tacloban City but she has moved to Metro Manila in the last 10 years. She decided to register in Manila so she can vote in 2010, something that she has not been able to do since 1995. The registration process in itself was a breeze, which was very surprising considering that when I did something similar in 1988 when I first moved to Manila, the process was so tedious and convoluted. The catch, however, was that the barangay people required a lot of information about my sister; we joked that they were probably developing a dossier of each voter in the barangay.

As it turns out, some barangay officials are indeed already requiring registration as voter in the barangay as prerequisite for the issuance of a barangay residence certificate. One of my readers, Romeo dela Rosa of Barangay San Bartolome, Novaliches sent in a write up detailing his experience when he went to try to get a barangay certificate from his barangay officials. Dela Rosa is a gifted writer so I have decided to allow him to tell his story himself. What follows is Dela Rosa’s letter in full.

A house is not a home. So we are reminded by an old song. A house becomes a home only when you dwell in it in comfort, protection, and when you get a sense of belongingness from the neighborhood.

But I learned in a bizarre way, that being a homeowner, dweller, taxpayer, do not make one automatically a resident of the place where he lives. How’s that again? The woman in front of me was telling me that you can be a homeowner but not legally a resident of the barangay. No, not unless you are a registered voter in the barangay. That ruling was pronounced by a barangay official of Barangay San Bartolome in Novaliches Quezon City.

Here’s my story, and I hope it’s an isolated case. After all, I still believe that not so many nincompoops get to a position of authority.

As one who detests dealing with cold-blooded bureaucrats, be it in high and low places, it was for an important purpose that I had to apply for a barangay clearance from the barangay where we live for 15 years now. I thought it would be easy, like a walk in the park. Nonetheless, my second mind told me to secure a homeowner certificate from the president of the homeowners association of our subdivision just in case proof would be necessary.

Wrong. I found out that the only qualification needed to get a barangay clearance is to be a registered voter. Fine. Nobody has to remind me that because I have religiously exercised my right to suffrage since I was old enough to vote.

But no. Not so fast. The barangay official meant that before I can be issued a barangay clearance I have to be a registered voter in our barangay. If that does not get you into a foul mood, I don’t know what will. As bad as it can get, they assured me nonchalantly, as if time was the only issue, that I can still make it that afternoon. All I have to do is go to the City Hall right away.

In the eyes of our barangay, I am just a homeowner, not a barangay resident, because I was registered as voter somewhere else. For that matter, I cannot be issued a barangay clearance.

Forget about being a taxpayer who pays 32 percent for every peso he makes or the real estate taxes he remits to the local government year in year out. If you do not have voter value in the barangay, you are non-existent!

Being a promdi, I must confess that I am a resident of two places. During weekdays, [I am in] the polluted, concrete jungle of Quezon City, because of work, school, business, malls, and other conveniences.

During weekends, home is Bulacan for a breath of fresh air, to be with my elements, roots, parents, relatives, old friends, and real people.

I did not bother to transfer my voter registration to Quezon City because we have the same types of local candidates in our hometown anyway. What difference would it make if I transfer my sufferance to another place? Under current dispensation, the right to suffrage is just a sure ticket to continue to suffer from crooks that get elected to power.

Be that as it may, I think my obligation to vote is to the country, not necessarily to the local politicians.

The choice is mine. The barangay cannot order me to transfer my voter registration to his barangay. A case with similar circumstances is the President of the Philippines who is registered as a voter in Lubao, Pampanga. She casts her vote there every election even as she resides in MalacaƱang or in Quezon City.

It’s one thing to encourage people to register and vote but to coerce one to transfer his voter registration under pains of not being issued barangay clearance is absolutely misguided.

I gathered that many barangays have adopted the same tactic in variant forms. Election is just around the corner. I think they are missing the forest for the trees when they failed to understand that their mandate is to encourage people to register and vote. Period.

From this incident, it is not far-fetched to assume that the ulterior motive of the barangay is to increase the number of voters in his fiefdom for political leverage. Say, for higher internal revenue allocation (IRA).

For the same reason, barangays are so hospitable to squatters as evidenced by the proliferation and expansion of slums in the cities. The slums may be poor but they are vote rich. Squatters can vote and, sadly, without meaning to denigrate them, can be bought. Barangays keep them, not out of love and concerns for the poor, but for the knowledge that they have the numbers to install anyone to power.

I dread the thought that stories of this nature are now commonplace. Worse, that our barangay officials are involved in more sinister schemes to build a grassroots mechanism in preparation for the election in 2010.

2 comments:

Ormocanon said...

barangays are so hospitable to squatters as evidenced by the proliferation and expansion of slums in the cities. The slums may be poor but they are vote rich. -


You can "thank" ex-senator Joey Lina and his stupid Lina Law for that.

Wing Tung Leung said...

Ganyan din ngaun nangyayari sa amin dito sa quilib rosario batangas... home owner din kami sa eco verde homes... ayaw magbigay ng kapitan ng clearance dahil di p daw kami botante..kakalipat lng namin nung may 2015... is there a law na kelangan registered voter ka sa isang barangay para makakuha ng clearance... need kasi namin para makapagpakabit ng meralco..tempo facility pa lng kasi power and water namin... lumapit kami da comelec pero di n daw pwede magpatransfer kasi malapit na election...
Any legal advice regarding this matter