Saturday, March 25, 2006

At the Barangay General Assembly

I took some time out to attend the barangay general assembly that was hastily called this week. The burning issue, as everyone knows, is Charter Change, most specifically, the shift from the presidential to parliamentary form.

Hastily called? Why, yes. I chatted up our barangay secretary as to the reason and mechanics of the general assembly, and she let slip that they only found out about it this week. If that isn't hasty, I don't know what is.

Our assembly was scheduled for 4PM, and thankfully, we didn't start too late. Who were the people who had come? Folks from the lower-income classes, predominanty housewives, some old men, some tanods, and lots of children. Did I mention that there were door prizes for attendance? How many people from the upper-middle class? One. Moi.

You can probably appreciate the shrewdness of the convenors of this general assembly. A barangay general assembly is not a gathering that blogoratti would go to. People who go to these assemblies tend to go along with whatever the barangay captains and kagawads suggest.

But this doesn't make such assemblies any less potent: in fact, they are moreso, because these is where plain folk go to air their humdrum grievances and resolve their disputes. If we the blogoratti opt out of events like this, then it's our loss.

The assembly started out with committee reports: from the health committee, from the peace and order committee, from the finance committee, and even the tourism committee.

And then on to pressing matters. The captain, who was a family friend, asked me to say a few words about Charter Change (the sly fox) even though I wasn't really prepared. I said something along the lines of being careful, of thinking through these things. Charter Change, I said, is being pressed on us. Why? What are they asking for in return? What about term limits, for example.

Then he whipped out a pop sheet and read on the differences of the presidential system and the parliamentary system. My golly, in my entire life, I have never heard of such a one-sided comparison! The parliamentary system was being made out to be heaven compared to the hell of a presidential system. This was by no means a balanced analysis. But really, what did we expect?

I think they expected me to hold my peace, but after the captain's reading, I had to go up front again. The gist of what I said: as you can see, it's all painted out so nicely. But you need to ask yourselves really what the issues are. Will the parliamentary system really solve all our problems?

The pop sheet made a virtue out of the selection process of the parliamentary system, that the choice of leader would no longer rest in the hands of the people but in their elected representatives. I asked the assembly: is this really what you want? don't you want to make your own choice? Don't you think you're being rushed? Please, think through before you sign anything.

It was hard to go into a drawn-out discussion. By nature, people in these gatherings are meek and non-confrontational. Besides, the captain was not-so-subtly hinting that my time was up.

Sigh. I hope I'm not just tilting at windmills here. I hope the folks appreciated what I had to say.

And after the event: door prizes. Gah. That's what people really came for, I think. Just another fiesta.


  1. Thanks for the first hand account and kudos for saying your piece in front of the assembly.

  2. Nice. It made me feel I was there too. Thanks so much.

  3. I've often thought that positive changes in Philippine society can be more effectively brought about by "small" acts like this, rather than passing a bill through congress, or going to the mountains and becoming a rebel.

    Hope you attend more barangay assemblies.

  4. Sigh. I hope I'm not just tilting at windmills here. I hope the folks appreciated what I had to say.

    It is better that someone tried to make a difference, rather than none at all.

    Let's not fall into apathy. Our future and more importantly, our children and their children's future is at stake here.

  5. I appreciated this post, and what you did in that assembly. It took some courage.

  6. I've attended many barangay assemblies and not all of them were like those that you described. Don't give up democracy is not solidified overnight--especially the grassroots kind of democracy.

    I hope you continue being interested in what is really happening in OUR communities.