For the past nine months, Barangay Causwagan of Banay-banay, Davao Oriental has hosted me and the Company which I command. It is an obscure Barangay with the smallest voting population in the whole Municipality. It was formerly a major NPA Mass base and, after the successful conduct of Peace and Development Outreach Program or PDOP by my unit, is now the undergoing continuous immersion to prevent enemy recovery efforts and strengthen the Government in the community. While obscure and somehow little compared to its other neighbouring localities, it is home to the brand of politics that I so admire, that I wish is the kind that the whole country practices.
Having grown up in large metropolitan cities, my work now offered me the opportunity to get a glimpse of how rural communities are. Growing up with only our Village Homeowner’s Association being the semblance of a local governing body, dealing with the rural barangay was a welcome experience as I see how the little people in the grass roots level aspire to improve their way of life. True to its name, Barangay Causwagan (meaning development) is the typical community. Its people and its local official all aspire for Causwagan. At the onset of this year’s Barangay Election, I can honestly say that Causwagan stood out from all the Barangays I have been to.
Our country’s political practice is marred with so much controversy especially during election time. Scandals suddenly come up; people who are friends suddenly become enemies after siding with competing candidates; sometimes relatives become bitter rivals. Well, Causwagan is an exemption. There were three (3) major players vying for the Barangay Captain’s position. There’s the incumbent, the former Barangay Captain which the incumbent defeated last election, and a newbie. All three have strong winning prospects with almost equal support base. While our tradition of politics usually begin their campaign plan with show of force in the locality, these three candidates began theirs with a show of UNITY. Together with their line-up of candidate Barangay Councilors, on their own initiative, agreed to a caucus and laid down informal rules for the campaign. It wasn’t the showbiz type of caucus where candidates, in front of flashing cameras, wear their hypocritical smile. Rather, it was a private affair with no press release whatsoever which will only be heard about in chit chats among those who witnessed it. If not for the announcement at the miting-de-avance on the last day of campaigning, this event is merely an urban legend. The event did happen and none of these honourable politicians advertised such event for their own political mileage. The campaign period happened as it should and issues discussed remained professional. It was something that I have never witnessed in any of the campaigns I saw in the past.
During the miting-de-avance on the last day of campaign period, all 23 candidates for this election, sat side by side with each other. All the speeches were about selling themselves to the audience hoping for their vote. They all maintained their being honourable individuals. The dinner served to the audience was paid for by all candidates and their supporters assisted the distribution of such. It was impossible to distinguish who supports who as the dinner was more of a fiesta celebration than a political event. When all is said and done, the campaign period culminated, not with bad karma, but with smiles from everybody. There were no distinct political lines; it was a community aspiring for the best leadership for their community.
The election happened and the winners were declared. In yet another show of being an honourable bunch, they all gathered and organized a victory motorcade through the community. Election season has ended and the community moves on. Just like that.
Of course, these are my personal observations. Saying that the competition did not stir any conflict amongst them may not be entirely correct. But their display of sportsmanship is worthy of admiration. Most of these people do not have College Degrees. They grew up relatively poor. Surprisingly, they are able to display a brand of politics that is far more superior than other groups who pride themselves as well educated and/or with better breeding. I am proud to have served this people. I hope that by writing about them, our people can see what can be possible. I am hopeful than if one community can do it, our country still has a chance. This election has winners and losers but in Barangay Causwagan, they are all winners.