MANILA -- President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on Tuesday said he formed a team headed by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to look into issues of devolution and decentralization of the functions of the local and national governments arising from the implementation of the Mandanas-Garcia ruling.
Speaking during the gathering of the League of Cities of the Philippines in Malacañang, Marcos narrated that he already had extensive discussions with Batangas Gov. Hermilando Mandanas and the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo on the devolution issue, when he was chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government.
The original concept, he said, was to use the additional internal revenue allotment (IRA) for the 4th, 5th, and 6th class provinces or local government units (LGUs) and provide assistance to provinces that operate hospitals but don’t have funds.
The remainder of the IRA would be given according to the provisions of the Local Government Code that varies depending on the LGUs, he said.
However, there are difficulties in applying the ruling to some cities, and the decision-making was left at the discretion of local chief executives on how to apportion the money that is appropriated, according to the President.
“But we are still continuing to look at it. Ang akin kasing tinitingnan is ano ba talaga ‘yung --- what belongs to local government and what does not belong to local government,” he said.
“Also, some of the functions that have been given to local governments, kung minsan hindi lang nagagawa dahil wala tayong bagong item, wala tayong bagong pondo, wala naman tayong training sa kung ano man ‘yun,” he said.
One example is the land use plan, he said, wherein several LGUs face difficulty in implementation because of the lack of money and qualified personnel, adding that the work could be given to the national government.
On Thursday, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said it is ready to carry out the President’s order.
"We remain committed to bridging the concerns of the LGUs (local government units) to the current administration as we continue to pursue a middle ground in the implementation of full devolution arising from the implementation of the Supreme Court ruling on the Mandanas-Garcia petitions," said DILG Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. in a statement.
Abalos said the department embraces the critical responsibility of leading the special team taking into account the primary mandate of the LGUs to provide the highest quality of public service to their constituents.
While he understands that full devolution can be “challenging” for LGUs, Abalos said the agency remains committed to creating a safe environment where local officials can openly express their concerns and sentiments “towards a more productive exchange of ideas and its improved implementation”.
"Patuloy po kaming magiging kaisa ng mga lokal na pamahalaan tungo sa mas maunlad at progresibong bansa (We will continue to partner with local government units towards a more developed and progressive country)," Abalos said.
School building repairs
Marcos said another contentious issue is the repair of school buildings.
“I was talking to Inday Sara the other day. Sabi ko, ‘paano gagawin natin kasi hindi pa maliwanag ‘yung repair of school buildings sino gagawa, sino magbabayad?’ And so, we were talking with Inday. And she said may budget ng konti ang DepEd but it’s not going to be enough,” he noted.
“So, sabi ko why don’t we give the materials or the funding to the LGU. Kaya naman natin administration kung school building lang naman, simple lang naman eh. Kung magtatayo --- we can also send assistance.”
These things have to be worked out, he said, adding that funding sources must also be identified.
The President suggested, however, that the national government could provide additional allocation to the local governments that are mandated by law to conduct school building repairs.
The Mandanas-Garcia ruling fully transfers or devolves the delivery of basic services to LGUs, stemming from a 2013 petition made by Governor Mandanas and former Bataan governor Enrique Garcia, Jr., together with other local elective officials, before the Supreme Court on LGU shares of the IRA.
The SC affirmed the ruling in 2018, giving the LGUs a just share of all national taxes collected and not only from the Bureau of Internal Revenue effective 2022.
LGUs get their IRA from 40 percent of national internal revenue taxes collected by the BIR. With the SC ruling, LGUs are projected to increase the IRA by 27.61 percent.
Marcos also said he hopes LGUs support the rightsizing thrust of the administration to attain efficiency.
“Alam naman natin the bureaucracy kung minsan becomes inflated, becomes bloated and that’s what we mean by rightsizing, when I talked about rightsizing,” he said. “Ang ibig sabihin lang naman nu’n ay lahat ng tao, lahat ng staff niyo kailangan niyo talaga. Eh baka may matira diyan 15, 30 pero huwag na natin damihan. Let’s make them as streamlined as possible.”
Digitalization will also play a very important part, he said, noting some of the cities have already taken the initiative and already started their implementation. (PND/with report from Lloyd Caliwan)