Calling A Spade... -- By Solita Collas-Monsod

Ayala Alabang’s famous ordinance

Posted on March 31, 2011

One doubts whether any of the 42,000 barangay councils in the country, past or present, can match the speed with which Barangay Ayala Alabang (BAA) passed its now famous/notorious first ordinance (No. 01-2011) entitled "An Ordinance Providing for the Safety and Protection of the Unborn Child Within the Territorial jurisdiction of Barangay Ayala Alabang; Fixing Penalties for Its Violations, and for Other Purposes." If Manny Valdehuesa, whom I consider to be the country’s expert on barangays, or DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo from any records, can provide similar examples of such alacrity, I would be very much obliged.

The feat is doubly breathtaking, considering that the work was being done at the height of the Christmas season, when as we all know, there is a marked slowdown in the workplace (including all those holidays) except for those engaged in sales.

And it is triply breathtaking because, at least as far as the barangay documents would show, the idea of an ordinance was not even part of the formal development plans of the BAA as presented in the general assembly by the different committees -- it only surfaced after the dinner, during the open forum, as in "An open forum followed after dinner. Some of the questions asked which the BAA Council will have to address are the following: ... "the following referring to 10 issues, e.g., parking problems, garbage schedules, a senior citizen’s center a website, a shuttle service." The "Suggestion to pass an ordinance on the Protection of the Unborn Child" was the last of the 10, brought up just before adjournment.

Consider the following timeline:

Dec. 11, 2010 -- BAA, as well as all the country’s barangays, holds its first barangay assembly and get-together (complete with dinner) with 74 members registering attendance. As mentioned above, the ordinance was a "suggestion," the last one, brought up in the open forum held after the dinner. And by the way, BAA has to be one of the wealthiest in the country, with cash in banks of P37.9 million, plus receivables (from the city) of P17.5 million, not to mention other assets worth either PP17.4 million or P23.6 million, depending on who is doing the accounting.

Dec. 13, 2010 -- First meeting of the Barangay Council, Alfred A. Xerez-Burgos, Jr., presiding. In the agenda, the ordinance was just part of "Other Matters," 9th on the agenda items, but was referred to, significantly, as " 9.3 Ordinance on RH bill." How "protecting the unborn child" got shortened ino "RH bill" in the minds of the BAA Council should be an interesting topic for discussion.

But the real eye-opener is in the portion of the minutes of this first council meeting, from which I quote: "7. Other Matters: 8.1.....8.6 In connection with the RH bill, Chairman AX Burgos instructed the Kagawads to start conferring with the BEC District Coordinators and get their approval/comments. This will serve as our basis in passing the ordinance prepared by Sen. Pimentel."

So now two questions arise: 1. Was the "ordinance prepared by Sen. Pimentel" an again breathtakingly immediate response (remember the dates: Dec 11, suggestion; Dec. 13, reference to the Pimentel-prepared ordinance) to that seemingly innocuous suggestion during the BAA general assembly? Or was it prepared beforehand, and the seemingly innocuous suggestion was really part of a well-planned strategy? I think we can all agree that it was the latter scenario. But if so, why the subterfuge? What happened to the BAA objective of "institutionalizing the tenets of transparency...at the barangay level"?

2. The second question is even more challenging. BEC has to stand for Basic Ecclesial Community (Pilipino version: Maliit na Sambayanang Kristiyano), which is an integral part of the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines, with the BEC National Office located in the CBCP headquarters in Intramuros. What is the formal link between the BEC and Barangay Ayala Alabang? During the Dec. 11 general assembly, according to the minutes, the BAA signed a "Memorandum of Understanding, Unity and Cooperation" with the Ayala Alabang Village Association (AAVA). But there was no mention of a similar memorandum signed with the different BECs in Ayala Alabang. Again, in the interests of transparency, the relationship between BAA and BEC has to be clarified.

Dec. 20, 2010 -- Barangay Kagawad Alice Bacani , chair of the Committee on Health, files "Ordinance to Protect Unborn and Other Purposes" with the barangay secretary, asking that it be taken up in the following day’s council meeting. Under her signature is the word "Author." By that, one presumes she has assumed responsibility for its contents, because it is clear that she did not write it, per the minutes of the first council meeting.

Ms. Bacani, in her explanatory note, observes that many local government units are passing reproductive health bill ordinances institutionalizing the promotion of artificial contraceptives as a method of family planning. "We in Barangay Alabang", she writes (or maybe just authors, "...believe that these reproductive health ainitatives are wrong for at least three major reasons," namely, that artificial contraceptives are anti-life, anti-family, and anti-Philippines. The quality of her reasoning is best illustrated by the following statement: "The current world economic crisis likely would not have occurred had this mentality [she is referring to what she calls the ‘artificial contraceptive mentality’ -- scm] not been adopted decades ago by the developed nations, so that there have been too few children born to keep their economies going."

Dec. 21, 2010 -- A second meeting of the Bbarangay council. "The Review on the Proposed Ordinance for the Protection of the Unborn Child" is now the first major item on the agenda. According to the minutes: "6. Review on the Proposed Barangay Ordinance for the Protection of the Unborn Child-Kgd Alice submitted her proposed ordinance for First Reading and Chairman Freddie turned the proposed ordinance over the (sic) Chair on (sic) the Committee on Women’s Rights, Kgd. Marisol Tugade, who will convene a Committee Hearing on Dec. 23 to discuss the proposed ordinance."

That’s it. No discussion, apparently, in the council. No formal discussion, anyway. How about that for a first reading?

Dec. 23, 2010: Public hearing on the proposed ordinance. Attendance sheet shows 40 attendees -- two days before Christmas. There are any number of delicious quotes from that meeting, but they deserve separate attention. Suffice it to say for the moment that it started at 10:22 a.m. At 1:37 p.m., a vote was called for. The proposed ordinance was approved UNANIMOUSLY. Not one single objection.

Jan. 3, 2011 -- The third meeting of the Barangay Council in 20 days. Per the minutes: "Upon motion of....the proposed Ordinance....was passed unanimously by those present." Again, no discussion.

Jan.4, 2011 -- BAA sends the ordinance to Muntinglupa City for approval.

Thus, from the BAA general assembly meeting to approval of the ordinance, time elapsed was 23 days. Take out the holidays, and you have an effective working period of 16 days. But, of course, remember that within the barangay council itself, there was really no discussion on the matter. The issue, it seems, was pre-decided.

Tell me, how did they expect to have people attend a public hearing with only one day’s notice (the Dec. 21 meeting started at 5 p.m., the Dec. 23 public hearing started at 10:22 a.m.)? And where was notice given? The barangay bulletin board, the village association bulletin board. Where I live, a matter as important as that, the village security sends notice house to house. But even then, who has time to attend a meeting two days before Christmas? Great timing -- for a railroad.