Wednesday, March 11, 2009


LEAN, the acronym for Lianga Emergency Assistance Network, is one volunteer civic assistance organization that is currently making waves in this town. Despite the fact that it is a relatively young group (just a few months old, in truth), it has, to this date, notched a more than creditable record of accomplishments.

LEAN was the brainchild of Jun Lala, the young political neophyte member of the Lianga municipal council who inherited the vice-mayorship last year when former Vice-Mayor Roy Sarmen became town mayor upon the untimely demise of then Mayor Vicente “Belos” Pedrozo. The idea, as Lala put it then, was to “mobilize volunteer citizens and harness their energies in assisting the municipal government in the maintenance of peace and order and in addressing the multiple problems brought about by unexpected emergencies and natural disasters.”

The organization’s core is composed of a small coterie of volunteers picked from all walks of life who shared the vice-mayor’s vision and this small tight and highly mobile group who with their operational links to law enforcement agencies and access to a small fleet of personally owned motorcycles and cars has been largely responsible for much of LEAN’s recent operational successes.

The capability of the group’s members to respond quickly and proceed promptly to the scene of a developing crime or emergency situation has become timely in view of the current difficulties faced by Lianga’s own local police force which has been largely handicapped by lack of personnel and proper equipment.

A case in point is the important role the group has played in the strict implementation of the so called “safety law” or the municipal ordinance mandating a 10 pm to 6 am curfew for minors. The local police force, their personnel augmented by LEAN volunteers, has managed to put some teeth into the ordinance and as a result many of Lianga’s outlying barangays have expressed their desire to enforce similar youth curfews of their own.

Neighborhood crime patrols and “real time” monitoring of the peace and order situation throughout the municipality remain the center of the organization’s day to day activities. The group boasts that its membership scattered all over the Lianga area report regularly on the crime situation in their respective locations and thus provide an accurate “picture” of the crime situation all over the town at all times of the day.

The group’s primary mission according to the LEAN leadership remains assisting local police forces in the areas of law enforcement and crime prevention. To this end, the group seeks to provide its members with training in the basics of volunteer police work. It also aims to provide members with adequate skills in the areas of first aid, volunteer firefighting and disaster response. Access to reliable and efficient communication facilities (cellular phones and VHF radio transceivers) remain also a priority concern.

LEAN, of course, is not immune to accusations that it is merely an organization organized by politicians for partisan political purposes. Even die hard members would have a difficult time completely refuting these allegations. There is a “political” flavor and color to its meetings and members routinely discuss local politics together with organizational matters.

It has also to prove that it has the capability to survive the test of time and remain focused on the mission it has chosen for itself in the years to come. The history of Lianga is replete with the stories of similar volunteer organizations, who after being born amidst much fanfare and high expectations, only end up dying ignominious deaths after only a couple of months or years of tenuous existence.

Be that as it may, I have weakness for volunteer organizations like LEAN despite their innate limitations. I like them because they encourage and reward the participation of ordinary citizen volunteers in the governance of their own communities. They help foster civic responsibility and therefore strengthen the very fabric of the democracy we all live under.

It is my hope that it will grow and develop into something more than what it is today. From tiny acorns can grow the mightiest of trees. In the case of LEAN, only time will tell.

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