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Championing the Barangay System

Martin Diño played a prominent role in implementing the Duterte administration’s various local government policies, specifically at the barangay level.



On October 16, 2015, Martin B. Diño, who was then chairman of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), was inevitably thrust into the national political scene when he filed his certificate of candidacy (COC) for president before the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), mere minutes before the deadline. Although then-Davao City Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte eventually substituted for him as presidential standard bearer of PDPLaban (subsequently winning the presidency in the May 13, 2016 elections), Diño soon played a prominent role in implementing the Duterte administration’s various local government policies, specifically at the barangay level.


Known for his high-profile role as VACC chairman, Diño was particularly engaged in the group’s effort to seek justice for victims of heinous crimes and accountability for corrupt government officials, providing Filipinos with a glimpse of his capabilities as a leader of a non-government organization (NGO).

However, he evidently honed his potential and then made his mark professionally as a public servant in various capacities.

Not many may be aware that Diño actually started his career in government service in 1978, as area coordinator and then supervisor of the Quezon City government’s Barangay Operations Center. He likewise worked as part of the internal audit team of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).

The year 1994 was Diño’s first foray in an elective government post, when he was elected chairperson of Barangay San Antonio in Quezon City, serving his constituents for 13 years until 2007. “Lahat ng natutuhan ko during the time na nasa Quezon City Barangay Operations Center ako at ‘yung experience ko na 13 years as barangay chairperson… kaya well-versed ako sa Local Government Code (I’m well-versed in the Local Government Code, given my learnings and experiences while working in the Quezon City Barangay Operations Center and 13 years as barangay chairperson).”

Clearly, his extensive experience at the local government level enabled him to gain familiarity with the different facets of local governance, preparing him for his future role in the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).


Diño explains that when the Duterte administration took over on June 30, 2016, the original plan was for him to be appointed to a position in DILG. However, a medical condition at the time prevented his immediate appointment in the department.

On September 23, 2016, Duterte appointed Diño as chairman of the board of Subic Bay

Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) and assumed office the week after. Among his goals as SBMA chairman were to rebuild the freeport’s ageing infrastructure, modernize the port facilities, and pursue various infrastructure projects to enhance Subic’s business appeal.

Controversies surrounding the agency’s leadership structure inevitably led to his exit in

September 2017. “Nanghinayang din ako dahil ang dami nang magagandang proyekto na dapat gawin doon (What happened was regrettable because there were still numerous worthwhile projects that should have been implemented there),” explains Diño.


As fate would have it, Diño’s exit from SBMA was followed by his eventual homecoming

in the field of local governance. On January 8, 2018, Duterte appointed him DILG Undersecretary for Barangay Affairs, several months after reports that he will be given the referred post. His appointment meant assuming responsibility in managing the affairs of over 42,000 barangays nationwide.

As the country’s virtual lead “barangay chairperson,” Diño’s primary responsibilities were as follows: assist the DILG secretary in developing and implementing department policies, programs, and projects that reach/ cover barangays; ensure compliance and adherence of barangays with the various directives of the president; serve as DILG representative to other national government agencies on matters related to the implementation of community/barangay-level initiatives; represent the DILG in the Liga ng mga Barangay; supervise the National Barangay Operations Office; act as accountable official in various barangay-related initiative of the DILG; oversee the establishment of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) desks in barangays; and file appropriate charges against barangay

chairpersons for various violations.

Given the Duterte administration’s highly controversial “war on drugs,” among the priorities of Diño was to strengthen the Barangay Anti-Drug Abuse Council (BADAC), with focus on continuously increasing the number of drug-free barangays. “Noong umupo kami nina Presidente [Duterte] at Secretary Eduardo Año, naging functional ang BADAC at continuous ang fight against illegal drugs, lahat ng barangay, kumikilos against illegal drugs (When President [Duterte] and Secretary Eduardo Año, and I assumed office, BADAC became functional and all barangays continuously mobilized against illegal drugs),” he explains.


Apart from complying with Duterte’s antiillegal drugs campaign, Diño also put emphasis on strengthening local autonomy by empowering and strengthening the barangay system. “Ang barangay itself ay isang uri ng [kompletong] pamahalaan na may iba’t ibang sangay—may barangay council [as legislative branch], lupong tagapamayapa [as judicial branch], at punong barangay [as chief executive]. Mayroon ding daycare centers, barangay health workers, at mga barangay tanod para sa peace and order (The barangay itself is a form of [complete] government with various branches—it has a barangay council [as legislative branch], lupong tagapamayapa [as judicial branch], and barangay chairperson [as chief executive]. Barangays also have daycare centers, barangay health workers, and barangay

tanods for peace and order),” Diño elaborates.

Diño likewise reiterates that as undersecretary, he endeavors to further enhance the capabilities of barangay officials to respond to various emergencies, as well as ensure that they are consistently doing their jobs. “Naging super active ang ating mga barangay, natuto sila ngayon na sumunod sa mga memorandum circular. Dati wala lang (Barangays became active and learned to follow memorandum circulars that we issue. Before, they would just brush them aside),” Diño adds. He cites the COVID-19 pandemic as an example, in which barangay officials are at the forefront of delivering services to the people, from implementing lockdown directives issued by the national government, issuing quarantine passes, providing food and medicine, and distributing cash aid. In particular, barangay health workers were tapped to administer contact tracing and isolation of infected residents, as well as in vaccination drives when the vaccines became available. Moreover, he mentions that barangay officials became active in road clearing operations, clean-up drives, and providing assistance to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in implementing the Social Amelioration Program (SAP).

Diño stresses the need to constantly train barangay officials to make them efficient and effective in the performance of their duties. “Right after ng barangay elections, mayroon tayong isinasagawang barangay Newly Elected Officials (NEO) training… pero kulang kasi dalawang araw lang. Kaya nagkaroon tayo ng special course na ang gumagawa ng mga module ay ang Local Government Academy (Right after the barangay elections, officials undergo a barangay Newly Elected Officials (NEO) training, although it is quite limited because it’s held for only two days. As such, we offer a special course through the Local Government Academy),” he explains.

The DILG and Department of Justice (DOJ) also train barangay kagawads, tanods, secretaries, treasurers, and health workers through seminars, workshops, and modules.


With the increased focus on the barangay as an instrument of nation-building, Diño warns that barangay officials should consistently follow the directives of the national government and to always be available to their constituents, particularly in times of emergencies and disasters.

He warns: “‘Pag nawala ka diyan, may show cause order ka. You will explain bakit di ka kailangan kasuhan dahil in times of emergency wala ka sa barangay mo (If you are not present in times of emergencies you’ll be served a show cause order. You’ll have to explain why a case should not be filed against you for being absent from your barangay).”

To underscore the department’s resolve to clean up the ranks of barangay officials, he shares that cases have been filed against numerous officials before the Ombudsman for various violations, including those related to corruption, abuse of authority, and dereliction of responsibilities. Nevertheless, Diño endeavors to incentivize exemplary performance by barangay officials in their respective jurisdictions by introducing the Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG) for Barangays. He explains that before cities and municipalities receive seals of good governance, barangays should be in order and functioning properly.

“Bakit mo bibigyan ng seal of good governance ang mga municipality at city kung ang mga barangay mo ay hindi maayos ang record? Kaya para makakuha ka ng seal of good governance, ayusin mo ‘yung barangay (Why would you award seals of good governance to municipalities and cities if your barangays do not have good records? So, if they want to receive seals of good governance, they have to put their barangays in order first),” Diño reiterates.


Diño proudly shares that in the past few years, the barangay has been at the forefront of the national government’s thrust to serve the people down to the grassroots level.

He reiterates that “Gumalaw, nag-respond ang barangay, nakilala ang kahalagahan ng barangay. ‘Yung success ng Duterte administration, may kinalaman ang barangay— fight against illegal drugs, insurgency, violent extremism, terrorism, environmental issues, [and the] COVID-19 pandemic (Barangays responded and their value was recognized. Barangays also contributed to the success of the Duterte administration, including in the fight against illegal drugs, insurgency, violent extremism, terrorism, environmental issues, [and the] COVID-19 pandemic).” Even though Diño vacated his post on June 30 2022, he still proudly upholds his advocacy as a champion of the barangay system and its critical role in nation-building. His contributions as DILG undersecretary will serve as important building blocks for better governance at the grassroots level.

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