Bayanihan and the Barangay

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By Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco, LL.M

President Rodrigo Duterte’s hard-line approach in combating criminality is absolutely necessary. And as recent poll results from Pulse Asia and Social Weather Station would indicate, still very much appreciated by many Filipinos. There can be no doubt indeed that we are all sick and tired of criminals, both petty and bigtime, ruining our dreams of living the good life.

From the “rugby boys” snatching bags in the streets, to the akyat-bahay degenerates pillaging our homes, to the sickening laglag bala syndicate in our airports, to the drug pushers destroying our youths and to kotong cops corrupting our streets─ all are vile villains in the eyes of society. This is a bitter fact of life that has numbed majority of Filipinos to the brutality of the War on Drugs.

Case in point is the “Flores de Pusher” conducted in Batangas early into the President’s term. This publicity stunt was a patent violation of human rights. And we should all be embarrassed about such a crude punishment still happening in our country. But still, the sad reality is none of these disgusting felons will be missed if they disappear from the face of the earth tomorrow.

However, silence should not be mistaken for apathy. The administration’s dogged determination is welcomed but their strategy and methods should not escape scrutiny.

In this regard, Inquirer columnist, Jose Ma. Montelibano, is correct to point out in his March 24, 2017 piece that, “communities have not been recruited as the primary partners of government in a war against drugs. The one most affected are excluded from the solution.”

While talk of crime rates going down is valued, the fundamental purpose of keeping the peace and maintaining public order is to preserve the health and harmony of the community. And Montelibano rightfully warns, “if communities are not motivated and supported by an intentional program of government to find their unity and protective wall again, even killings by the hundreds of thousands will never win the war.”

It is worth recalling that President Duterte’s historic win was founded on his promise of change. And the 16 million Filipinos who voted for him expect a complete overhaul of the political system. The Consultative Committee (Con-Com) on constitutional reform has been tasked to fulfil this commitment.

The mandate of the Con-Com is to “study, conduct consultations, and review the provisions of the 1987 Constitution including but not limited to the provisions on the structure and powers of the government, local governance, and economic policies.”

Finding “an intentional program of government” to re-establish the “unity and protective wall” of Filipino communities certainly falls within this purview.

Accordingly, the Con-Com should consider returning to the original meaning of the Barangay by directly amending Article II, Section 1 and by implication, Article X, Section 1 and Article XV, Section 1. The new provision will thus read as follows:

“The Philippines is a democratic and republican State. Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them. THE BARANGAY IS THE FOUNDATION OF THE NATION.”

From being a territorial and political subdivision of the state (i.e. a local government), the Barangay shall therefore be re-classified as the country’s basic social unit. Additionally, the Con-Com should also prescribe a special section for the Barangay in its draft charter, explicitly prescribing its raison d’être as inculcating in every Filipino a deep allegiance for the common good. The aim here is to establish bayanihan as the national ethos.

The urgency of this political reform cannot be emphasized enough. As Montelibano warns, “When communities lose their togetherness and become wracked by apathy and partisanship, they become most vulnerable to drugs and corruption.”

Truth be told, the lack of community empathy now slowly dominating public attitudes makes the complete breakdown of our society a very real and frightening possibility. Therefore, any nation-building effort for the Philippines must involve a drastic move to defeat this threat of individualism and selfishness in our midst.

It must be emphasized however that the autonomy of the Barangay must remain intact. Its purpose is redefined precisely to completely remove it from the realm of partisan politics. Its pre-colonial character is restored to reinforce its role as the lynchpin of true democracy.

The constitutional recognition of the Barangay as the foundation of our nation triggers the process of reintegrating in the public consciousness the notion that the community is far more important than the individual.

More importantly, this reform can ignite the community solidarity necessary to sustain a deep level of cooperation and commitment to one another. To visualize the impact of this change in relation to national development, think Banaue Rice Terraces.

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