By: Novelyn Balangui and Claudine Paulino
The Philippine courts are clogged with cases. As a result, not every case is speedily resolved through the trial court. Some, if not most, remain unsolved for several years even outliving the complainant. Thus, to help in the declogging of court dockets, the Barangay Justice System was put in place.
The Barangay Justice System is community-based dispute settlement mechanism administered by the barangay. It covers disputes between members of the same community and involves the Punong Barangay and other members of the communities (the Lupon members) as intermediaries. It provides a friendly, inexpensive, and speedy forum for the settlement of disputes through amicable settlement without resorting to the courts.
The Lupon members are vital to do dispensation of the disputes in the barangay level. They are not men in uniform. They do not earn high salary. In fact their service is voluntary. Despite these, they offer their service as peace maker of the community.
“Ti lupon nangatngato ti qualipikasyon na no ti presidente, ta haan lang nga masapul nga ammu na agsurat wenno agbasa (Lupon has higher qualification than the qualification of a president because a Lupon must not only be able to read and write),” Artemio Bangaan jokingly says. Bangaan is a lupon member of Barangay Pico in the Municipality of La Trinidad, Benguet.
Accordingly, a Lupon member should have personal integrity, fairness, independence of mind, reputation for honesty without fooling his or her fellowmen, social standing as a good man, resourceful (ability to search for the truth aside from testimonies), patient in a sense that they should not lose temper in listening with the disputants even in illogical and (stupid) statements, and to be flexible and willing to accommodate everyone who came to the their barangay.
These characteristics are what the Lupon memebers of barangay Pico endeavor to possess. Barangay Pico is one among the barangays in La Trinidad which maintains the maximum number of their Barangay Justice System. Now, they have 20 members.
“Agpasalamat kami kadagitoy lupon nga nagboluntaryo nga talaga nga kayat da nga agserbi para iti peace and order ti barangay (We are thankful for the volunteers who willingly extend their help in maintaining peace and order in our barangay)”, said Melicio Basingga, Barangay Kagawad.
Under the Katarungang Pambansang Law (KPL) the cases being addressed by Lupons are unlawful arrest, using false certificates, physical injuries inflicted in a tumultuous affray, less serious and slight physical injuries, grave or light coercion (payment of wages by means of tokens), occupation of real property, revealing secrets with abuse of authority, theft, estafa, and others.
In Barangay Pico, slight physical injury is the most common case brought to the Lupon. Accordingly, this is usually due to the influence of alcohol intake. Most of the time, though, parties agreed to settle their differences through giving medical treatment to the injured. From there, the conflict is resolved. Hence, the parties need not go through court processes.
With these efforts, Lupons of barangay Pico was been awarded as a hall of famer in the Lupong Tagapamayapa Incentives Awards (LTIA) program of the Department of Local and Interior Government (DILG). This were given in 2002, 2003, and 2004, consecutively. Their accomplishments are recognized not only in Benguet but nationwide.
“These awards inspire us to serve better,” says Basingga.
“We take it upon ourselves to uphold the honour of those Lupon members who served before us. We hope that we can sustain it,” Basingga added.
Mario Baw-es, is now a Chairman of the Lupon members in barangay Pico after almost 20 years in service. He said he never thought of quitting as a member of the Lupon because of his desire for public service. He learned that being Lupon or a peacemaker requires someone to be unbiased for the common good of both parties.
“Masapul nga awan ti panpanigan, nu anya pagsaya-atan ti both parties ket isu dapat ti masurut”We shouldn’t be one-sided. We follow what is good for both parties),” said, Baw-es. He added that, being a lupon enabled him to be patient and to stay calm. This, he said, is a necessary characteristic of a Lupon to effectively carry out his duty.
The challenge in their everyday life is being judged as one sided when it comes to handling cases. However, Mario explains that their roles as Lupons are just mediator for what is better for the both parties by not prolonging the conflict and will be given immediate solution through amicable settlements agreed by both parties through the mediation of the members of the Barangay Justice System.
“It’s not easy. We get judged, too. Some would say we are biased. But we are not” says Baw-es.
Despite the criticisms and the fact that they are not paid for their service, they remain steadfast in their passion to serve their community.
“Service is not about the money but about what we can contribute to the peace and order of our barangay,” the Lupon members said in unison.