Tuesday, November 18, 2008

An experience in barangay justice system

Last week, construction workers in a project about 10 meters away from our window woke us up because they worked until 1 am! That was not the first time the same construction work disturbed our sleep. Before I would call up the barangay tanod and security, within minutes the barangay security officers would come to the project site, and the noise will decline if not stop.

This time, I would not stop at a telephone call at the barangay security. So last Wednesday, Nov. 13, I went to the barangay hall of Brgy. San Antonio, Makati City. A lady at the "Lupon Tagapamayapa" (Peace Council) heard my complaint, gave me a paper, I wrote there my official complaint, in a complaint form, paid P100 complaint fee, she attached the receipt to my form, and instructed me to wait for the summon to be served by the barangay captain to me, the complainant, and the respondent, the project engineer of Ironcon Builders and Development Corp. with official address at Intramuros, Manila but the project is in Yakal St., Makati, just across our street.

I received the Summon yesterday morning, November 17, telling us to report to the Barangay hall on November 18, 1pm. Within an hour, I got a phone call from the respondent, he asked me what do we want, I said we only want to sleep soundly at night. I could sense he wanted an informal arrangement with me, I told him that if I talk to him, there will be no witnesses. I want the barangay officials to hear my complaint, he can defend his company, and we will both listen to the judgement and ruling of the barangay peace council. So he put down the phone.

Today November 18, my wife joined me, we also brought our 2 years old daughter as we have no yaya at the moment. 1pm we were at the barangay hall. The lady said the other Lupon official will be late as he has a prior meeting somewhere and he was not consulted of the 1pm meeting. The respondent came about 1:40pm. The lady said we wait for the barangay chairman to possibly hear us but he was busy with many other guests who keep coming.

The 1pm became 2:15pm, but at last, the meeting started. The other Lupon Tagapamayapa official, Joey Angeles, is a respectable-looking man in his 60s perhaps. Upon learning about my complaint, he did not ask me to detail everything as he is very familiar with similar complaints, and he immediately talked to the respondent, the young project engineer.

Joey was very calm yet clear and emphatic in his points. Construction work of whatever nature should start no earlier than 7am, and should end no later than 7pm. Should there be an extension due to delayed deliveries of materials, the barangay should be informed as well as the affected neighbors, and such extension should be no later than 10pm. No exception.

He also pointed out that he does not want to see us again filing the same complaint. Should there be any complaint of similar nature, the barangay will automatically go after them. The worst that can happen to the contractor is the barangay will move to stop the project. Joey cited the case of a medium-high construction project in the barangay. When digging was made, no structural support was made on the neighboring lot. When the soil began to soften in the neighboring lot, the owner complained to the barangay up to the city hall. The verdict: the construction project was stopped, the contractor and project proponent were left hanging with all their plans and investments.

I was very satisfied with the result of the hearing by the Lupon Tagapamayapa. The respondent clearly understood the constraints on their part. They have to abide by the ruling, or risk facing a bigger problem with the barangay, not just with individual respondents from the affected neighbors.

Being an advocate of small and limited government, the role of maintaining peace and order is one function that I believe should be strengthened in government, both national and local government units. Most other functions can be given back to private enterprises and voluntary associations by individuals.

I have personally experienced how barangay justice system is handled and rendered, and I am impressed.

On another note, I also like the responsiveness of the barangay security personnel whenever complaints via phone calls are made, whether it's during regular office hours or unholy hours at midnight and early morning. The security personnel would normally come within 4-5 minutes or less.

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