More than just neighborhood organizations, homeowners’ associations (HOAs) play a vital role not only in terms of community development but also in nation-building.
Around 24,000 HOAs all over the country are currently registered with the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD).
Deeply rooted in Filipino communities, HOAs interact directly with the people and therefore have first-hand knowledge of the situation on the ground—from simple issues like garbage collection to security, even as to what projects inside their subdivisions and their immediate environs would have positive or adverse impact on their lives. Thus, HOAs can serve as potent partners of both local and national government agencies in addressing existing community and social issues and in shaping effective programs or adopting mitigating measures.
HOAs presence at the grassroots level can have tremendous impact in the “bottom-up” planning of our government and hence, address the seeming disconnect between actual programs needed by our people on the ground vis-à-vis on projects being pushed at the national level.
Apart from bridging the “gap” between the local and national governments, HOAs also serve as the first line of defense or even transform into responders during emergencies like calamities, human-made or natural, like when the new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis struck.
HOAs as front-liners
At the height of the COVID-19 crisis, the DHSUD tapped HOAs to serve in the front-lines and help in the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), which was a proactive action to contain the pandemic. An advisory issued on May 1 directed all HOAs nationwide to assist the government, particularly barangay officials, in enforcing health protocols, in disseminating information, and in educating their respective communities about the necessary measures that have to be followed to curb the spread of the pandemic.
Even in the maintenance of peace and order, HOAs play a key role. Conflicts arising within a community are usually resolved at the HOA level and or barangay, hence, promoting harmony in the neighborhood. And this is key to nation-building.
Acknowledging these, the Department, which has regulatory and supervisory power over HOAs, is currently working on a policy framework to maximize the untapped potentials of these associations recognized under Republic Act No. 9904 or the Magna Carta for Homeowners and HOAs, enacted in 2010.
RA 9904 fulfills the constitutional principles directing the state to encourage, promote and respect non-governmental, community-based and people’s organizations in serving their legitimate collective interests in our participatory democracy.
Pursuant to the law, the DHSUD should make available resources to capacitate HOAs in fulfilling their role in serving the needs and interests of their communities to complement the efforts of local government units in providing vital and basic services and assist in implementing local and national government policies, programs, rules and ordinances.
On our part, we intend to strengthen the HOAs nationwide by organizing confederations from local to national level to establish a direct line of communication and craft measures on how HOAs can best contribute in nation-building and transform their communities to be safe, productive and relevant.
Setting the direction
However, just like other sectors, HOAs are not spared by internal squabbles that hinder their full potential. In most cases, politics obstruct the true spirit of RA 9904 which envisions HOAs to be active government partners.
HOAs are expected to be non-partisan and to work for the best interests of the majority of its members. Unfortunately, we have received a substantial number of HOA disputes that reached 3,204 from January 2019 to June 2020, although 68 percent were amicably settled by our regional offices. Most common cases are non-payment of dues, non-conduct of election, lack of consultations and other miscommunication between HOA officers and their members.
These situations defeat the purpose of RA 9904. It is in these circumstances when DHSUD comes in. As regulator, we take the lead in setting direction to HOAs based on the magna carta.
On the other hand, there are HOAs, guided by the principles laid out under RA 9904, that proactively collaborate with their host barangays or LGUs that yield positive results and contribute to community development as well as nation-building.
I personally believe that HOAs, as empowered by RA 9904, can contribute more to nation-building if only the chosen officers are apolitical and have the proper mindset of working for the greater good of all its members instead of pursuing their own vested interest.
This article is first published in Philippine Daily Inquirer