GLIMPSES & GAZES
By Severino C. Samonte
The oddities of 1st barangay polls in May 1982
As the 10-day official campaign period for the Oct. 30 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) began Wednesday in more than 42,000 barangays nationwide, this writer was reminiscing on the uniqueness or oddities of the first barangay polls held in 1982, a year after then President Ferdinand E. Marcos or FM (Dec. 30, 1965-Feb. 25, 1986) lifted the effectivity of the September 1972 martial law.
That election was held on May 17, 1982 in accordance with Batas Pambansa Blg. 222 signed by FM on March 25 of the same year. The way it was conducted by the then nine-member Commission on Elections (Comelec) was very much different compared with the conduct of such polls at present.
For one thing, it was a strictly non-partisan election, meaning the candidates did not belong to any political party and were not allowed to campaign together or in groups. In other words, each candidate must be totally "partyless" or without political group affiliation, unlike in today's prevailing party-list system.
At that time, the barangay council was composed only of the captain or chairman and six kagawad or councilors, plus the chairman of the Kabataang Barangay (KB) as ex-officio member. The KB was replaced by the Sangguniang Kabataan in the 1991 Local Government Code (LGC) promulgated during the time of former President Corazon C. Aquino (Feb. 25, 1986-June 30, 1992).
Aside from being non-partisan or partyless, another feature of that election was that there were no particular candidates for any of the top elective positions in the barangay such as captain or chairman and kagawad.
Any of the official candidates could emerge as the chairman provided he or she garnered the most number of votes in the entire barangay. The six councilmen were determined also by the number of votes they got, such as being second highest, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh.
Campaign costs then were cheap as there were no tarpaulins yet at that time. Distribution of T-shirts with the picture and name of a candidate was strictly prohibited.
Also at that time, barangay officials across the country did not have fixed salaries and were only entitled to certain amounts of a monthly allowance.
Just like all other local officials, most of the barangay officials elected in that polls were also replaced by officers-in-charge or OICs following the Feb. 22-25, 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution that forced FM and his family to flee to Hawaii, where he died in 1989.
In the then eight-year-old Barangay Nagkaisang Nayon in Novaliches, Quezon City, the elected officials in May 1982 were Benito Clemente (RIP) as chairman, and Alejandro R. Dantes, Angelito N. Mendoza (RIP), Severino C. Samonte, Gregorio Joval (RIP), Alfonso De Jesus (RIP), and Maximo Mendoza (RIP), as kagawad in that order. The winning ex-officio member was KB president Crisostomo Gonzales.
Their term began on June 30, 1982 and was supposed to end in the next elections in 1989. They took their oath of office before then First Lady and Metropolitan Manila Governor Imelda R. Marcos at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Manila together with the other newly-elected village officials from all over the country.
Barangay Nagkaisang Nayon, created in 1974 out of four adjacent barrios originally called Capri, Damong Maliit, Gitna and Pasacola was just starting to develop then into an industrial site from a sleepy one dominated by rice fields and forests. Its annual income amounted to just PHP100,000. As members of the barangay council, we just got a monthly allowance of PHP70 given at the end of every quarter for a total of PHP210.
After the so-called EDSA revolt, the then Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), which replaced the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development, named substitute officials or officers-in-charge (OICs) for the duly elected governors, vice governors and provincial board members, as well as city and municipal mayors, vice mayors and councilors.
In Quezon City, then Mayor Adelina S. Rodriguez was replaced by OIC-Mayor Brigido Simon Jr. Not long afterward, Simon appointed a new barangay captain for Nagkaisang Nayon in the person of Kagawad Alfonso De Jesus.
In turn, De Jesus did the same, replacing four of the five remaining councilmen – Dantes, the two Mendozas, and Joval. This move left Samonte as the only elected member of the barangay council, the five others being replaced by appointees recommended by De Jesus.
I did not know why De Jesus retained me, and I did not bother to ask him. I just stayed, doing the tasks of a duly-elected kagawad along with the appointed ones.
Sometime in 1988, the Quezon City Barangay Operations Center issued a memorandum stating that those already working in government in whatever capacities – whether appointed or elected – can no longer hold two government posts simultaneously.
After reading the memorandum, I quickly wrote my resignation letter and handed it to the OIC barangay captain. The reason I did it without consulting anybody, not even my wife and children, was because I could not choose the post of a barangay kagawad with a monthly allowance of PHP70 over a salary of PHP18,000 I was already getting at the government-owned Philippine News Agency under the Office of the Press Secretary (OPS) in Malacañang.
When my wife learned about my resignation from the barangay council four months later (after I did not ask her anymore to go to the barangay treasurer and claim my three-month allowance of PHP210), she became very glad instead of getting angry.
About the Columnist
He began his journalistic career by contributing to the Liwayway and Bulaklak magazines in the 1960’s. He was the night editor of the Philippine News Service when Martial Law was declared in September 1972. When the Philippine News Agency was organized in March 1973, he was named national news editor because of his news wire service experience.
He retired as executive news editor in 2003. He also served as executive editor of the Malacanang-based Presidential News Desk from 1993 to 1996 and from 2005 to 2008.