JUST A FORMALITY:  ARMM POLLS 'NEGOTIATED' / KAPITAN BAYAWAK / DOES BARANGAY GOVERNANCE REALLY WORK?



ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman and Basilan Gov. Jum Akbar lead the signing of the covenant for peaceful barangay elections in Basilan. VERA FILES PHOTO

COTABATO CITY, OCTOBER 29, 2013
(MANILA TIMES) by ARTHA KIRA PAREDES - VERA FILES - Elections in some barangays in the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) on Monday will be just a formality: There will be no real contest because a number of candidates are running unopposed.

Local politicos in these areas have opted to “negotiate” the elections as a way to avert violence in a place where political rivalries could turn violent, and at a time when elections are being held manually.

In Bumbaran town in Lanao del Sur province, all candidates for barangay positions in all 17 villages are running unopposed. This is good news for Gov. Mamintal Adiong Jr.

“Alam nyo naman ang barangay, ito na yata yung pinakamainit at pinakamagulong election na idaraos ngayong taon (As you know, barangay elections are probably the most heated and most chaotic elections that will be conducted this year),” Adiong said earlier this month.

In the governor’s own hometown in Ditsaan-Ramain, candidates in almost half of its 35 barangays are likewise running without any opponents.

Adiong told VERA Files candidates are running unopposed in 50 to 60 percent of all barangays in Lanao del Sur.

Lanao del Sur, with its 1,159 barangays, ranks sixth in the list of provinces with the most number of barangays nationwide. It has the most number of barangays in the ARMM, which is composed of the provinces of Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan.

In Maguindanao, there will be no opposition in all barangays of Datu Odin Sinsuat and Sultan Kudarat.

As of Oct. 27, there were 264 unopposed barangay captains, a number that may increase because, Provincial Election Officer Udtog Tago said, “there are ongoing negotiations of elders in the family asking an opponent to withdraw (to) preserve the family ties.” Most of the candidates are relatives.

Citizens Coalition for ARMM Electoral Reform (C-CARE) Secretary-General Jumda Saba-ani cited Commission on Elections (Comelec) data showing candidates in 290 of Sulu’s total 410 barangays running unopposed.

She said the local poll watchdog asked for data from Basilan but even the local Comelec could not determine the exact number of villages with unopposed candidates as of Oct. 26.

Comelec records in Basilan show there are more than 800 candidates for barangay chairman in 255 barangays. These include those in Isabela City, which is not part of the ARMM.

Available data from the towns of Panglima Sugala, Sibutu, Sitangkai, Mapun, Bongao, Tandubas and Simunul in Tawi-Tawi show that 56 barangays captains and their kagawad are running unopposed. There are no updates yet from the rest of the province’s four towns.

Comelec Regional Director Ray Sumalipao said at least 20 percent, or 527 out of the 2,490 barangays in the ARMM, have unopposed candidates.

Like Adiong, ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman said he prefers that differences be ironed out to prevent heated electoral contests. He said candidates could take turns with local positions and offers, counter offers and covenants could be made.

His message to political rivals vying for barangay positions: “’Wag na kayong maglaban, pwede kang mag-councilor, mag kagawad, or pwede kang magpatapos ng term tapos palit-palitan kayo (You can tell them not to seek the same office anymore or let the other finish the term then it will be the other’s turn).”

Barangay elections are pivotal because village leaders are seen as crucial to the 2016 presidential elections. They are more significant in the ARMM now that the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has signed the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro in 2012 establishing a new political entity replacing the ARMM. A transitional government is expected to take over in 2015 until the ARMM’s replacement at the end of President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s term in 2016.

Politicians in the ARMM view the barangay polls as a means to put themselves in position, and prepare for these future events.

What also makes the situation in the ARMM volatile is the presence of rido or violent clan wars. More than half of all recorded deaths from rido were politically motivated, according to the Regional Reconciliation and Unification Commission (RRUC). In its 2013 report, the RRUC said at least 170 of the 313 deaths were caused by political violence.

Elections caused tension among families, the report said, as clans defended their bailiwicks by dominating barangay and municipal positions.

Local election officers as well as poll watchdogs in the ARMM all acknowledged that talks have been going on among rival political clans, with local government leaders acting as brokers.

Yet one election officer said this means democracy is thrown out the window and political affairs are left in the hands of a few. “Sila-sila lang nag-uusap (It’s just them talking),” he said, referring to the political elite of each village.

Another factor prompting local officials to negotiate is that the elections will be done manually. In the ARMM, once tagged as the country’s cheating capital, candidates are expected to revert to the old ways of vote buying, ballot snatching, disrupting the electoral process through violence and other means of electoral fraud.

Adiong said he wanted the barangay polls in Lanao del Sur to be a repeat of the May 2013 midterm elections when there was “zero failure of election.”
“At ginagawan natin ng paraan na ang mga barangay ay makausap natin ang magkakalaban na wag ng labanan yung iba, yung kalaban nila (And we are trying to negotiate with barangay candidates so that most posts will no longer be contested),” he said.

Regional leaders here have their own experiences to learn from. Hataman said that in the May 13 midterm elections, posts were negotiated “from provincial level down to the municipal” between the Hataman clan and its rival, the Akbar family, in his province, Basilan.

In 2012, both families signed a peace pact and agreed not to compete for the same positions in last May’s elections. “Ang naging usapan na lang, sige total andyan pa kayo, andito pa kami, diyan na kayo, dito na kami (The agreement was that we keep the posts held by family members),” he said.

Jum Akbar ran and won as governor while Jim Hataman Salliman won as the lone congressional representative. They did not run unopposed, but no members from each family ran against the other.

Father David Procalla, regional head of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, said hakot (transporting hundreds of voters from one precinct to another), rido, election-related violence and fraud may occur in the region, but are almost unlikely in uncontested areas.

“Yun nga kasi, negotiated na yan (The very reason is, elections have been negotiated),” he said, and this may include paying off candidates not to run.

“Para sa atin, bayaran yan, pero para sa kanila, hindi. Kasi that’s part of compensation na parang sa kasal, may dowry.

Kahit sa rido, may blood money (For us, that’s a payoff but for them it’s like paying marriage dowry. Even in rido, there is blood money involved),” he said.

“For us it is wrong, but for them it’s not,” he said, likening it more to an indigenous form of settlement and the perception of it being wrong as “western point of view.”

Although the relatively more peaceful conduct of elections in unopposed areas is welcome, C-CARE’s Bobby Taguntong said, “People must still vote.”

Oblate priest and former peace panel chair Eliseo Mercado said in an interview there would be less violence, killing and expenses if an agreement such as the one made by the Akbars and Hatamans in Basilan were made.

“In their own local affairs, they should start their own way of choosing their own leaders not just copycat of Luzon and Visayas,” he said adding that selection can start within families where they can agree that one can run in the next 10 years then another can take over after.

The Regional Legislative Assembly is mandated by law to enact election laws. As long as it does not affect the national elections, he said, ARMM voters “can have their own way of selecting their own leaders” because this is the very heart of autonomy.”

WITH REPORTS FROM BABYLYN KANO-OMAR, DANIEL ABUNALES, DEXTER CABALZA AND MELISSA LUZ LOPEZ
(This story was produced under VERA Files’ ARMM WATCH project, undertaken in partnership with MindaNews, The Asia Foundation and Australian Agency for International Development. VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)

Barangay governance: Does it really work?October 27, 2013 9:23 pm Manila Times by ERWIN TULFO DEAD SHOT


Erwin Tulfo

Today, we choose once again a set or group of people who we believe can best run the barangay that we live in.

The people will elect their respective chairman and six “kagawads” or barangay councilors who will serve until 2016.

These barangay leaders are expected to be the first responders to problems that may arise in their areas of responsibilities.

But do these local officials really work? Or does the so-called smallest unit form of government really function?

Well, the answer lies within each barangay. There are barangays whose officials are hardworking and trustworthy while some are lazy and drunkards, and the rest are abusive and corrupt.

And when it comes to its performance as a government unit, it solely depends if the barangay officials are allies or opponents of the incumbent mayor.

If its officials are friends of the mayor, that barangay will surely enjoy the support of that city’s or municipality’s chief executive.

And for those barangay officials who did not support the incumbent mayor during the last election, they may just have to wait for another 9 years for an ally to get into the city hall.

Choose wisely folks.

* * *

Former politico a fake?

What’s this I heard all the way frrom Visayas that a former politician earned the ire of quake victims when he went there lately?

According to the rumor, Mr. Politico was supposed to distribute relief goods in the area. He heads an agency that helps disaster and war victims.

But to the dismay of everyone, instead of simply handing out bags of relief food and water to victims, this nincompoop “trapo” (traditional politician) wanted a photo and video shoot of him handing out goodies to victims.

And he wanted an angle where he would look like a savior while the victims like beggars.

When the mayor of the said town saw the incident, he ordered Mr. Politico and his men to stop distributing relief goods and leave the town since he can not stomach seeing his constituents being reduced to beggars by this former lawmaker and his posse from a big international non-government organization (NGO).

Tsk…tsk…what a shame!

Kapitan Bayawak should become extinctOctober 27, 2013 9:25 pm Manila Times by TITA C. VALDERAMA TEA TIME


TITA C. VALDERAMA

LET me reiterate that today’s barangay election is not to be taken for granted. Being the smallest geographical unit in governance, the barangay is the appropriate level for radical changes that the country need.

It is easy to choose the candidate who deserves to be elected in rural areas where residents are familiar with each other.

But in urban centers like Metro Manila where one may not even know who lives next door, voting for the best of the contenders is difficult.

Perhaps we should just look around our neighborhood and take note if basic services like garbage collection are attended to. Are barangay public markets clean or muddy and stinky? Do pickpockets and other petty criminals lurk on the streets?

If hawkers and beggars litter the sidewalks, then the sitting (probably sleeping-on-the-job) barangay officials don’t deserve to stay a day longer in office.

Check the orderliness of the barangay hall in your area. Is it clean? Are people working there attentive, courteous and efficient?

Has the barangay official acquired properties during his incumbency without visible means of additional income? Does the official mingle with ordinary folks and consult them on their problems?

The choice is ours, just like in any other election. If we want change, let us choose leaders who have shown sincerity and track record in delivering their promises. If we want to remain in the doldrums, afraid to walk the streets during the wee hours, then keep the incompetents in their positions.

Let me share with you a story about a barangay official in a developing city in Southern Tagalog. He is not simply a barangay official, but the chairman who is seeking re-election in today’s balloting. He is a classic example of an abusive official who may even seek higher office because of his political padrinos in the province.

Allow me to keep the official nameless, but his recent actions make him unfit as a public servant. He should even spend time in jail for brazenly using his position to extort money from a foreign investor.

Let’s just call him Kapitan Bayawak (monitor lizard). I was tempted to call him Kapitan Buwaya (crocodile) but considering that he is just starting out and not yet in the big league, I will settle for Kapitan Bayawak for now.

Kapitan Bayawak is still relatively young—in his early 40s, —but he seems to have learned the corrupt ways of the old early in life. He may be trying to get rich quick so he can join the big league and become a buwaya in a few years.

Kapitan got into my consciousness a few months ago when a friend inquired about the taxing powers of barangay officials.

So I did some research and found out that under the 1991 Local Government Code and other legal issuances, barangays are authorized to raise income from taxes on stores or retailers with fixed business establishments and gross sales or receipts of P50,000 or less in cities and P30,000 or less in municipalities in the preceding year at the rate not exceeding one percent on such gross sales or receipts.

A barangay can also generate income from the following:

• Service fees or charges for the use of barangay property or facilities;
• Barangay clearance fees;
• Fees or charges for the commercial breeding of fighting cocks and from cockpits and cockfights;
• Fees or charges on places of recreation with admission fees;
• Fees or charges for billboards, sign boards, neon signs and other outdoor advertisements;
• Toll fees or charges for the use of any public road, pier or wharf, waterway, bridge, ferry, or telecommunications system funded and constructed by the barangay;
• Revenues from the operation of public utilities and barangay enterprises (markets, slaughterhouses, etc.);
• Fines (not exceeding P1, 000) for the violation of barangay ordinances; and,
• Proceeds from the sale or lease of barangay property or from loans and grants secured by the barangay officials.

The single biggest funding source of the barangay is its share in the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) as I discussed in last week’s column.

But I could not find anything that authorizes a barangay official to demand a “donation” in fixed amount from a foreign investor who wanted to put up a green house in the province and live a simple life in the farm.

The investor is a European guy who married a simple-minded lass from the Visayas. Using the Internet, the guy found a real estate broker who offered a seven-hectare farmland planted with 600 or so coconut trees.

The old coconut trees had to be cut for any development on the land to take place. The broker helped hire a contractor to cut the trees and construct the perimeter fence. Several hanky pankies happened from the time the broker got into the picture to the clearing of the land, but no matter how discouraging those were, the investor still wanted his project done.

What the investor found most awful came in the process of securing the necessary permits to build his dream greenhouse. When he was applying for a barangay permit to cut the coconut trees, Kapitan Bayawak wouldn’t sign it until the investor paid him P150 per tree to be cut. The investor had to pay a whopping P97,000 just to get Kapitan Bayawak sign the permit.

After the trees were cut and the investor had to clear the land, the contractor had to use a back hoe. The back hoe rental was P2,000 per hour, and Kapitan Buwaya demanded that he be paid an additional P500 per hour that the equipment was used.

He also demanded that the investor purchase all the materials needed for the green house construction and hire laborers from him, including the contractor who would oversee the project.

The investor said he felt so helpless. He knew nobody in the area. He said he had no choice but to pay off to get his retirement haven done.

All payments to Kapitan Bayawak were not issued receipts. He said these were “donations.”

I asked a few friends in the Southern Tagalog city about Kapitan Bayawak and the feedback I got was this: “Huwag kang magulat na humihingi sya hindi dahil eleksyon kundi ganoon ang kalakaran.”

Whew! Shocking indeed! I hope there is no more Kapitan Bayawak anywhere else in the country’s 42, 027 barangays. And I hope I won’t be seeing Kapitan Bayawak’s name on the list of winning candidates in today’s election.

I am praying that candidates vying for barangay chairman or a local council seat (konsehal) do not have the evil and corrupt mind that Kapitan Bayawak has in raising money from people who wanted to contribute to the development of his barangay.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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