Reviving the purok system in the barangays proves to be an effective mechanism in local governance.
This was the observation of Rowena Bandola-Alensonorin, executive director of the Integrated Development unit of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI), after observing the efficient implementation of processes and procedures in San Francisco, Camotes Island, Cebu.
In San Francisco, Camotes Island, Cebu, the local government unit’s delivery of basic services and implementation of programs and projects in the areas of health, education, environment, social services, economic, and disaster management, are cascaded down to the puroks.
“Ordinary people and constituents are given the equal opportunity to participate and get involved in the development process—planning, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation of projects—in the purok,” Alensonorin said.
A purok is the smallest unit of governance composed of a number of households with an average of 20 to 50 or even more number of members, depending on a particular geographical location or cluster of houses. Given the mandate through local ordinances enacted by barangay or municipal/city sanggunian, a purok can perform government functions with the coordination and supervision of the local officials.
For purok leaders, they take pride in being able to participate in the running of projects and activities of the government, even when they are not elected officials of the barangay.
The purok system generates participation and promotes ownership and the sense of pride of the local citizenry. It empowers people to manage programs and projects using local talents, skills, and resources.
During a recent expanded Green and Wholesome Environment that Nurtures (eGWEN) Our Cebu Programs, the barangay captains shared that they find the system effective because it draws out participation from the locals and the purok officers work hard to make their puroks functional; hence, the number of conflicts reported to the barangay leaders has significantly reduced because many of them are already settled at the purok level.
In every purok, a center is established where the updated data and information can be located, and where various materials, such as books, references, maps, and other reading materials, are compiled for use.
The purok center is the symbol of governance like the municipal or city hall where transactions are made and serves as the converging point or meeting place of the members.
A purok has its own set of officers elected for a specific term of office to set their own policies or house rules and to draft and implement action plans and directions anchored on the overall vision, mission, and objectives of the barangay.
The success of the purok system in the Municipality of San Francisco was credited to the people who started the thorough organizing process.
In 2004, the organizing process has begun with two persons―Vice Mayor Al Arquillano (former mayor of the town) and Leoli “Yul” Ortadilla―who are the brains and in the forefront of the purok system establishment.
Considering the huge coverage, the two have decided to divide the area into north and south to start the organizing process. Ortadilla, being the assistant of Arquillano, was given the task to initiate the purok formation.
Two years later, the team expanded and hired additional purok coordinators under the supervision of Sir Yul. Teotimo “Dodon” Nodalo, a retired school principal, came to help in the documentation and eventually in the institutionalization phase.
At present, the team has a total member of seven purok coordinators who act as the local community organizers of the different puroks. A total of 126 puroks were organized in three districts, namely, South district with 45 puroks; North district, 41 puroks; and Central district, 36 puroks. Each district is handled by two coordinators.
The dedication of the coordinator-organizers, which is beyond the pay they receive, is manifested in how the puroks are functioning and the success of program implementation.
“Kining among role isip coordinator dili baya lalim. Ang kakapoy, ulan ug init… Mga problema sa komunidad apil mi sa pagsulbad. Ang pagdala og tawo nga lain lain og kinaiya pwerting lisura (Our role as coordinators is not easy. The exhaustion, the rain, and the heat of the sun… We are part in solving problems of the community. Dealing with people of different characters is very difficult.),” Ortadilla said.
“Apan ang kalipay nga among naangkon karon, dakong garbo ug dungog para kanamo tungod kay kami gi-isip nga modelo sa uban. Daghan ang ni bisita sa among purok para makat-on ug kami nagpaambit sa among kalampusan… Kini maoy sukli sa among kahago ug kakapoy,” he continued.
Alensonorin affirmed that “the purok system is an enabling mechanism that will move various development interventions at the community level.”