Mobilizing homeowners associations

>> Friday, October 7, 2016

Ike Señeres

The barangay is supposed to be the smallest political unit in our society. As it actually happens however, there are many villages within a barangay that are just smaller parts of it, and these smaller villages are in effect the smallest political units in our society. They go by many names such as purok or sitio, but the bottom line is the same, that these are the smallest units.
More often than not, the so-called villages in the more affluent sections have their own homeowners associations, usually in the gated communities in the urban areas. Originally I thought that only the owners of the houses in these villages could be considered as the homeowners. As it turns out however, even the renters of these houses could be considered as homeowners, if they have resided in the villages for at least six months.
As it is actually happening now, only the gated communities both in the urban and rural areas are forming their own homeowners associations. As it could actually happen however, even the “un-gated” communities in both these areas could also form their own homeowners associations, regardless of whether they own their dwellings or not, and regardless of whether they own the legal titles to the lands where they have built these dwellings or not.
What is not important in this context is the ownership of the dwellings and the lands. What is important is that they have resided in these communities for at least six months. In other words, it does not matter if they are renters or squatters, for as long as they are residents of those communities.
Do take note that in the case of the “un-gated” communities, I am using the term “dwellings” instead of houses. That is so because many of those dwellings are makeshift, so much so that we could hardly call them “houses”. If you ask me whether those dwellings are habitable, I will say yes, but I will have to stretch the meaning of what that word really means.
As of now, we may have to leave out those who are “homeless”, because it would be very difficult to establish their residency. For all intents and purposes therefore, anyone in the community could join the homeowners association within, for as long as they have a place to stay that would be the basis for establishing their residency.
What could be the justification for organizing homeowners associations? As it was supposed to be, the residents of barangay units are only supposed to be a few thousands, but now some barangay units now have residents in the tens of thousands. Somehow, that defeats the purpose of having closely knit and family based barangay units.
To be able to get back to what it is supposed to be, the short term remedy is to organize homeowners associations. As the law provides however, the residents of barangay units could call for referenda that would allow them to decide whether to break up their barangay into smaller units or not.
Call it homeowners associations, call it community associations or call it whatever you like, but we do need smaller and more manageable units in areas where the population of barangay units have swelled beyond a few thousands. As a matter of fact, these need not operate as political units, because no open elections are needed to select their leaders.
Aside from that, these smaller units need not compete with the political powers of the barangay leaders. The emphasis should be on cooperation rather than competition. If and when practical, these smaller units could even organize themselves into cooperatives, thus acting as economic units just like the kibbutz in Israel.
 If and when organized into cooperatives, these smaller units could be formed into clusters of dwellings that function as local self-help organizations, wherein the members could help each other in producing their own food, filtering their own water, producing their own electricity and recycling their own garbage.
In theory, anyone can buy their own food if they have money, but as it is already happening; many people in the poorer communities are going hungry because they have no money to buy food. In that case, they may not also have money to pay for their water and electricity. Garbage is another story, because they could actually make money by recycling their own post consumer waste.
As it is supposed to be, smaller problems could be solved at the lowest levels so that there will be no overload at the highest levels where the bigger problems are supposed to be solved. That is what subsidiarity is all about.
True enough, we know that the bigger Republic of the Philippines is doing what it could to solve our national problems, but the fact of the matter is that each and every barangay is technically a republic in itself, because it is empowered by the law to function as such. In a manner of speaking, it could be said that the Philippines is a nation of thousands of small republics, all functioning as parts of the bigger national Republic.
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