Ever since I came of age, I’ve exercised my right (and duty) to vote in every election that comes around. Except for Barangay/SK elections. I’ve never voted in Barangay elections.
I understand that voting is a civic duty, and I have no real justification for shirking it. But the fact is that my level of awareness re: barangay-level government is very low. I have no idea what their responsibilities or jurisdiction is supposed to be. I know they have some sort of role in dispute resolution, low level law enforcement, and disaster relief efforts, but that’s about it. If I have a local issue, I’m not likely to think about bringing it up to the Barangay. To be fair, bringing it up to the Mayor’s office wouldn’t be my first thought either, but I’d definitely think of that before the Barangay.
Until today, I didn’t even know what geographic scope was covered by my Barangay. (I looked it up just now.) I had no idea who were the incumbent Barangay captain and kagawads. I have never had need to conduct business with them. The things that concern me about the government are more often city-wide (traffic) or nation-wide (taxes, internet, bloody anti-crime campaigns, loss of national territory) in scope. There’s also the perception that many Barangays are largely a waste of taxpayer money with many of the officials being useless people who mainly indulge in meaningless projects like local basketball leagues.
It doesn’t help that there is very little information about the candidates for those positions. Their campaign posters are little more than faces and names, indistinguishable from one another. They try to make “clever” initialisms to improve name recall but such attempts always fall flat. They annoy residents with their blaring campaign jingles that are all medley and no substance. Even if I decided to today to troop to the voting center and choose for someone to vote, I would have no idea who would be deserving. To be fair, the same criticisms can be said of the campaigns for national office – but in those cases there is often a lot more information available about the candidates from other sources.
I understand that this is partially my fault – I don’t really engage much with the community. If I really wanted to, I suppose they had some sort of miting de avance that I could have attended to get more information about the candidates. Or maybe I could have gotten into more discussions with others in my local community to find out more. Unfortunately, engaging in the community at that level might require more social effort than I am willing to spend.
I also understand that my situation is partly the result of privilege. The privilege of not needing to invoke the services of this particular branch of local government and thus not really caring too much about them. It might even make some kind of sense that the ones voting on those positions would be the ones who are more affected by it, and not people like me who hardly interact with the Barangay at all.
In a bid to understand more, I started a reddit thread about it. The responses mostly confirm my perception that the Barangay matters more for poor people and that there are a lot of incompetent/useless Barangay officials. The best answer tells us there is a significant gap between the current state of the Barangay and the ideal state, and that a good Barangay would do wonders for the residents. I’m not certain what would need to be done to close that gap.
It’s too late for me to vote in today’s elections given my lack of knowledge. Maybe in the future it’s something I can look into.