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The frontline of democracy

By Senator Manny Villar

The barangay elections are scheduled to be held in less than two weeks time. This is an important democratic process that we should take seriously. The last barangay elections were held in 2013 while the last synchronized barangay and SK elections were held in 2010.

 On May 14, 2018, our people will exercise their sacred right to choose their leaders at the barangay level: the punong barangay, seven kagawads, SK chairperson, and seven SK members.

 Elections are essential conditions for a democracy. It is the primary source of the power of the people. It also allows public officials to seek new mandates from the people.

The barangays, the basic political unit in our country, are important to a vibrant democracy because they are at the frontline of good governance. While the relationship between national level officials (president, senators) are mediated by media, the relationship between government and the governed at the barangay level is face-to-face and direct.

 At the local level, people can just walk in their barangay halls and talk to their elected officials. Most of the services people need—barangay certificate, senior citizen cards, permits—are just walking distance or a short ride away. Residents see their barangay chairperson and kagawads all the time, some of them might even be neighbors. 

Moreover, it is easier for barangay officials to consult with their constituents on many issues affecting their development given the small number of population. This, in fact, is the purpose of the bi-annual barangay assemblies mandated by the Local Government Code.

In other words, how people see the workings of government at the level they are most familiar with—the barangay—influences how they view good governance and democracy as a system of government.

If they see their barangay governments as efficient, democratic and responsive institutions the higher the chances of people respecting government and participating on political matters. But if they see their barangay government as dirty and corrupt this might lead them to be estranged, and withdraw, from the entire political process.

The barangay government is at the frontlines of protecting and serving our communities in terms of peace and order, development, health and sanitation, disaster risk reduction management, and justice (through the Lupong Tagapamayapa).

This fact makes it imperative for voters to choose the best candidates on election day. We need to vote for people who has the ability, the heart, and the platform to improve our communities and solve our problems. 

According to the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), more than one million filed their certificate of candidacy during the filing period from April 14 to 20. This is a good indication that there are many Filipinos out there who want to serve the country. This is also good for the voters who, hopefully, will be faced with quality choices as they exercise their right to vote.

So I urge our kababayans to troop to voting precincts nationwide on May 14. And vote according to your conscience and principle. As John Quincy Adams once said, “Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.”

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