CLARK FREEPORT ZONE, PAMPANGA - In a rare opportunity, no less than President Rodrigo Duterte officiated the oath taking of newly-elected and reelected Punong Barangays in Region 3 at the ASEAN Convention Center on June 12, which coincides with the 120th anniversary of Philippine Independence.

Earlier in the program, discussions on various government programs affecting barangays were presented by assistant secretaries and bureau directors of the DILG and other attached agencies.

DILG R3 Regional Director Julie Daquioag introduced the dignitaries and emphasized the importance of change and taking the initiative for reforms at the local level.

Assistant Secretary Ricojudge Janvier introduced "Rehabinasyon" in coordination with the Inter-agency Cooperation Against Drugs (ICAD) and its underlying components on demand reduction and operations that are geared towards the eradication of illegal drugs.

According to him, one of the barangay's main task in the drug war is to organize and make functional the Barangay Anti-drug Abuse Council (BADAC) consistent with DILG Joint Memorandum Circular 2018-1 that provides for the creation of BADACs and strengthening their functions as the first line of defense against illegal drugs.

Department of Finance Assistant Secretary Tony Lambino clarified the provisions of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) by emphasizing the benefits and social mitigation measures for inflation.

He took the opportunity to ask the support of barangays by helping them explain to their localities the challenges and benefits, advocate rice tariffs for 200,000 rice farmers

Director Leocadio Trovela of the National Barangay Operations Office (NBOO) elaborated neighborhood watch as a strategy that should be done to ensure that the community is in harmony with the barangay's commitment to protecting its constituents.

The neighborhood watch consists of foot patrolling, citizen watch, education campaign, and partnership building.

Trovela also highlighted the Brgy Peace and Order Council's task to lead and maintain peace and order and public safety programs such as the Barangay at Pulis Laban sa Kriminalidad (BPLK).

Bureau of Local Government Development (BLGD) Director Odilon Pasaraba recognized the barangays as the face of the community and presented the anti-corruption campaign, "Bantay Kaagapay," DILG's new program that banks on vigilance and strengthening of local special bodies and barangay-based institutions.

Federalism also found its way as one of the topics in the afternoon with Legal Liaison Director Romeo Benitez where he contrasted a unitary vis-à-vis a federal form of government.

According to him, the former features a more concentrated approach in governance and distribution of resources while the latter is characterized by equity in the provision of services which aims for even growth across all regions.

Undersecretary Martin Diño facilitated the Panunumpa ng Pakikiisa sa Pagbabago (Pledge for unity for Change) and instructed all Punong Barangays to reorganize their Barangay Anti-drug Abuse Councils (BADAC) in two months or face administrative charges.

Lastly, DILG Secretary Eduardo Año challenged officials to personify a matino, mahusay, and maaasahang (upright, excellent, and reliable) public official - traits the DILG advocates to local governments.

He also expressed his admiration to punong barangays and likened them to movie and television heroes like Ricardo Dalisay of the TV Show Ang Probinsyano for always being responsive to the needs of their countrymen.

2,843 village leaders were given reminders by the president himself who likened the dangers they face to military personnel who often die in defense of the people's integrity.

His instructions to the local leaders were anchored with his vow to stop corruption, clean the country of drugs, talk to the enemies of the state, and continue the peace process in Mindanao.

According to him, disputes in Mindanao are purely territorial in nature and that he will not resort to violence in pursuit of lasting peace in the region.

He also urged the village chiefs to work closely with the government to create progress that is sustainable and reassured them that he will protect them should difficulties arise in the fulfillment of their duties.

"I will give you my support and I will take the cudgels for you," he added.

A total of 3,102 punong barangays are expected to assume office at the noon of June 30 and shall serve only for a period of two years before the next election takes place in 2020.