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Friday, April 19, 2024

Eligible, accountable barangay officials

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"Perhaps with a little more education, they would be able to perform their duties and responsibilities better."


While many of our fellow Filipinos are suffering from hunger, some actually dying while waiting in line for the government cash abuloy under the Social Amelioration Program (SAP), local government executives are pushing for the extension of the lockdown, purportedly to keep the COVID-19 epidemic under control.

By the time this column sees print, President Duterte might have already decided whether to place Metro Manila under continued enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) or general community quarantine (GCQ).

Ironically, LGU officials failed to stop the widespread irregularities in the distribution of SAP cash at the barangay level due to corruption and incompetence.

In many cases, millions of poor Filipino families did not receive the money – P8,000 in Metro Manila, and P5,000 elsewhere under ECQ.

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Remember, the meager cash assistance was the only means indigent households were hoping to get by after almost two months of lockdown, during which millions of workers were displaced and small businesses shut down.

There were numerous reports of extortion, pilferage and non-public posting of the list of beneficiaries, as directed by Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año.

In Barangay Old Balara and Barangay Mariblo, both in Quezon City, recipient families were harassed and forced to give away part of their cash benefits.

Similar anomalies were reported to have occurred in Tondo, Manila; San Mateo, Rizal and Hagonoy, Bulacan.

As I’ve said earlier, another thing we got out of experiencing this crisis is unmasking the nincompoops and the incompetents, particularly the barangay chairmen and councilmen.

This is why I tend to support the proposal to raise the qualifications of future candidates running for barangay posts. Now they only have to be a natural-born Filipino citizen and of legal age.

I agree that the inefficient and chaotic implementation of the SAP at the grassroots level may be partly blamed for the incompetence and corruption of many barangay officials who are ineligible for civil service in the first place.

Contrastingly, most of those holding office in the Sangguninang Kabataan (SK) have college-level education compared to the barangay captain and the kagawad.

Just maybe, with a little more education, barangay officials would be able to perform their duties and responsibilities better, and would be more accountable for their actions.

Meanwhile, we are hoping that the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for Emerging Infectious Diseases would be able to strike a balance between the medical and socio-economic responses to the pandemic crisis.

While other countries, particularly our neighbors in Asia, are taking steps toward reopening business so that their economies may recover, we are still debating whether or not we remain on lockdown.

Perhaps the IATF could consider a holistic approach now that we are seeing encouraging signs of a trend towards the flattening of COVID-19’s epidemiological curve.

Mass testing, persistent contact-tracing, and treatment – not lockdown alone – will free us from COVID-19 pandemic.

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