(Un)common Sense by James Veloso
(Un)Common Sense

Patronage politics extends all the way to the barangays

Aug 8, 2023, 7:19 AM
James Veloso

James Veloso


Weeks earlier, I explained in this column how barangay elections tend to be more personal and more heated than national or even local elections.

But one thing I have failed to discuss in this column, I’ve realized now, is the extent of how some local officials will try to “influence” the outcome of barangay elections.

According to the Omnibus Election Code that was enacted in 1985, barangay elections are supposed to be “non-partisan” – that is, candidates for barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections are not supposed to be affiliated with a national or local political party.

That is the theory. In reality, however, in a political system dominated by “kampihan” and patronage, local officials at the municipal or city level are very much invested in ensuring that their barangays will keep in line with their administration.

Some mayors, for instance, have a tendency to “anoint” certain candidates for the barangay elections as their favorite. That could range from subtle signs, like the candidates being present at some event of the local executive, to the blatant declaration of the local executive that this candidate will soon lead their barangays.


Whether that “anointment” of the local executive is really effective in swaying the votes is a matter of debate. After all, at the barangay level, residents tend to be more judgmental about their barangay leaders’ performance, whether they are favored by the current administration or not.

Remember, the barangay is the smallest and most accessible form of government here in the Philippines, so people will remember more the barangay captain’s tendency to sleep on the job or party all night than the still elusive promise of President Bongbong Marcos to bring the price of rice down to P20 a kilo.

But we cannot erase the fact that barangay elections have an impact on the local (and maybe even national) elections as well, and vice-versa.

After all, the Philippine political system is governed by “tit-for-tat.” Barangay officials are very instrumental in bringing together voters in favor of local and even national candidates during elections through the notorious “hakot” system.

And because the president of Association of Barangay Captains (ABC) is also automatically guaranteed a place at the local city or town council, every move will be made to ensure that whoever is elected ABC president will be a supporter of the ruling administration.


And because of this partisanship that has infected our barangay system, some worry that the barangay elections have become more violent than local or national elections.

As of press time, authorities have yet to publish which areas in Laguna province will be placed on an “election hotspot” list, or areas of concern based on historical and current intense rivalry among candidates that could trigger violent acts, employment of private armed groups, or proliferation of loose firearms.

But here’s one thing we should remember: expect the 2023 barangay elections to become even more heated than ever – and most local officials will, now more than ever, do their best to ensure that their own interests will be protected.

#UnCommonSense #PatronagePolitics #BarangayElection #SK #JamesVeloso #OpinYon

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