MANILA, Philippines - It was a moment of levity during a debate between two senatorial candidates in ABS-CBN's Harapan: Mga Isyu ng Bayan face-off on Sunday.
Expounding on the need to strengthen barangays, Atty. Manuel Valdehuesa of Ang Kapatiran Party (AKP) said the national government should spend more time in developing the country's smallest government unit.
“The barangay is the very bottom foundation of our society," he said. He added that none of the lawmakers in the Upper and Lower Chambers of Congress have focused on developing barangays.
"Everybody wants to stay in Manila, and everyone wants to steal money from the coffers up there, while the money in the barangays are being 'kurakuted,'” Valdehuesa said, giving humor to the exchange. "Kurakot" is the Tagalog word for plunder.
Valdehuesa, administrator of the 1971 Constitutional Convention, opposed Atty. Gwen Pimentel of Nacionalista Party on the issue of Charter change. During the debate, he questioned Pimentel on why she would want to split the republic into “contentious federal states” by amending the Constitution.
Pimentel said shifting from a presidential to a federal form of government would allow barangays to be included in higher government structures. She said development and the availability of basic social services under federal states would be ensured because of an enhanced local budget.
In turn, Valdehuesa said barangay development can be done without Charter change. He likened the barangay to a corporation that has the capacity to launch its own projects and outsource funds.
He added, however, that the national government has failed to brief the people about the nature of barangays in the community.
In the next round, Pimentel was asked by a supporter of Valdehuesa on what she has done to make barangays more autonomous and progressive.
Pimentel said her father, Sen. Aqulino Pimentel Jr., authored the Local Government Code. She said that when she worked as her father's chief of staff, she helped in laying down various amendments to give added benefits to barangay officials and increasing the allotted funds for barangays.
She also emphasized the need to fortify the participation of barangays as enshrined in the Local Government Code.
After two rounds of debates, Pimentel was favored by the Wireless Audience Response System voters, garnering 79.6% and 76.6% of the votes on Rounds 1 and 2 respectively. Valdehuesa’s rating, however, only got 40% approval by the WARS audience in the 1st round; and 40.3% rating in the second round.
As of 4:20 a.m., Pimentel ranked second with 18.9% of the total number of votes in the online voting. Valdehuesa finished last with 0.5%.