Barangay Data Banking, A Mechanism for Accountability

The seclusion of the rural communities, represented in the Philippines by the barangays, incessantly make them infertile grounds for seeding development. It has been the mindset that governments must work for them as the very objects and subjects of development. This passivity prevents any effort for development of any sector from being sustainable.

The barangay government institutions, on the other hand, share the same mentality as with the people they ought to serve. This is not only because of the culture of dependency being imposed and perpetuated by political traditions and patronage politics, but also because of the absence of a relevant and sustaining role that barangays must play. Addressing the former is a complex matter that may involve analyses of resource inequities and personalities. While the latter becomes an innovation especially if said role is something concrete and beneficial.

Development planning and decision-making exercises among government institutions relies heavily on data and information of socio-economic and physical contents. Data and information have always been the staple food for them, but raw data banking has always been a thing of lesser interest. A quick look will tell us that most of these entities do not even have true-to-life baselines or benchmarks, while if they do, they are likely to be outdated secondary or tertiary data already mangled by repetitive interpolations and extrapolations to approximate a current or future condition.

The proximity of barangays to data sources makes them very potent players in continuously feeding raw data to a local data bank for their use and for the re-use of their host City or Municipality or even the province, the region and up to the national government. This is an opportunity long overlooked by which this paper would like to exploit.

Barangays, thru its barangay-based workers are endlessly tapped by government agencies to do data collections for them. Concretizing and officially bestowing this role to the barangays as data producers and suppliers is seen as a potential catalyst for their empowerments. It is an innovation nowhere far-fetched, given the fact that ICT-based tools are available to do the dirty jobs for them in maintaining local data banks of their own.

A local data bank is a collective embodiment of the community’s socio-economic characteristics, its needs, preferences, aspirations and societal perceptions. It is the people’s way of telling their government what they are and what they need in a manner more accurate and convenient to both the government and the people in lieu of community consultations or barangay assemblies.

Local people will feel more able to push their cause as they saw the possibility of supporting their demands with data made credible by the fact that the undertaking will be a common effort of the community and their government. Local officials, on the other hand, will express more openness to the idea of accountability, as they saw how a more logical, concrete and validated rationale can now validate people's demands for basic services and asset reform. They will feel less threatened by partisan intervention, as the basis of accountability will depend on an instrument that will depict the actual situation of their people.

Notwithstanding, the Local Government Code of the Philippines [Section 3(b) and Section 3(f)] also implies that local government units should strengthen an effective mechanisms for ensuring accountability to their respective constituents in order to upgrade continually the quality of local leadership. One of such mechanisms is community consultation where the needs and service requirements of the community are identified, zeroed-in and prioritized.

This partnership between the community and their government enshrines a “self-help” kind of relationship – “Help the barangay help you”. It will broaden the extent of people’s participation and their sense of ownership of the results as they are truly community-driven. And there lies the truest meaning of Participatory Governance.

On the other hand, the institutionalization of a data update mechanism at the barangay level will ensure that the local data bank is always fresh and able to generate timely information. New updates shall be the bases for self-assessment, an evaluation tool, by comparing them with the benchmark or the immediately preceding data sets. It will show how the barangay government fared over time, or, were concerns that needed to be addressed had been met, resolved, eradicated or minimized.

This update mechanism will also induce and sustain a barangay dynamism that will fertilize the grounds for seeding and sustaining any development effort. It will create an atmosphere conducive for the assimilation of new ideas. They can be made to implement, at improved pace, localized anti-poverty campaigns, basic social services delivery or address emerging security threats at the grassroots.

Indeed, the barangays are very important institutional allies. Nurturing them in a manner leading to their empowerments is but sound public administration and democracy at play.