Good Governance and Meaningful Local Autonomy: Instruments for Effective Local Governance

11 February 2011

Speech-Meaningful-Local-Governance-FEUPolitical Science & International Studies Society Symposium
Far Eastern University
February 11, 2011, FEU Auditorium

Let me begin by congratulating the officers and members of the Institute of Arts and Sciences and the Political Science and International Studies Society of the Far Eastern University for convening this symposium entitled STRENGTHENING LOCAL GOVERNMENT UNITS THROUGH GOOD GOVERNANCE with the theme: A Blueprint Towards a Progressive Society.

This year, we shall be commemorating on October 10, 2011 the 20th anniversary of the enactment of Republic Act 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code of 1991.

This Code is considered to be the “most revolutionary piece of legislation ever crafted by Congress since 1987 within the framework of the 1987 Constitution.”

Through this law, the central government has devolved to the local government units political, social as well as economic powers. It provides financial wherewithal to the LGUS to help them unlock development opportunities in the countryside.

Allow me to mention some features of the Local Government Code which will provide you a bird’s eye view of the importance of the Code, which today is being considered the bible of local governments. And these are the following:

  • It devolves to the LGUs delivery of basic, actual, and direct services as well as certain regulatory powers;
  • It significantly increased the financial resources available to local governments by increasing their shares in the internal revenue allotment;
  • LGUs get an equitable share of taxes in the utilization and development of the national wealth;
  • It broadens the taxing and revenue raising powers of the LGUs;
  • Each LGU is authorized to design and implement its own organizational structure and staffing pattern, taking into consideration its governance and service requirements as well as its financial capability;
  • It provides for the participation of the private sector in local governance;
  • LGUs are granted the authority to secure loans, credits and other forms of indebtedness to finance their development programs, in accordance with guidelines issued by the National Government.

The foregoing, if properly implemented by the LGUs, are expected to bring together the different stakeholders into the planning table and to actively involve them in the different development processes that should result in the accelerated progress of the communities.

Good governance is the key that opens vast opportunities for development in the countryside.

Governance is defined by the United Nations Development Programme as “the exercise of political, economic and administrative authority to manage a nation's affairs. It is the complex mechanisms, processes and institutions through which citizens and groups articulate their interests, exercise their legal rights and obligations, and mediate their differences." (source: Website of ADB Institute).

Good governance entails sound management of public resources in order to guaranty full exercise of human rights and ensure optimum growth and development. It involves sound decision-making and the corresponding proper implementation of promulgated policies and programs.

The following are the key elements of good governance:

1. Transparency –

Transparency means the availability of accurate information to the general public and the articulation of government rules and regulations, and decisions. It is herein implied that copies of rules and guidelines for the conduct of business in the different LGUs for the information of different stakeholders should always be readily available to all.

Accountability and transparency in government transactions work hand in hand. Information from relevant local officials on matters concerning procurement of equipment and materials including those needed for the delivery of basic services devolved to LGUs, as well as the implementation of infrastructure projects where public biddings are required, are essential elements in responsible public service.

2. Accountability-

Accountable and responsible governance provides an effective mechanism to address complaints and grievances against public officials.
Under our national laws, the people have two alternative courses of action when dealing with erring local officials.

First, the legal remedies covering all local officials, whether elected or appointed, as provided for under the following laws:

a) R. A. 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991;

b) R.A. 3019, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act of 1960;

c) R.A. 6713, the Conduct and Ethical Standards For Public Officials and Employees of 1989; and

d) R.A. 6770, The Ombudsman Act of 1989.

Second, the political remedies which cover only elected officials–
a) People can directly punish erring local elective officials through the process of recall under the Local Government Code.

b) In the process of recall, the Code requires that at least twenty five percent (25%) of the registered voters of an LGU can validly initiate recall proceedings against incumbent elected officials for lack of confidence.

c) Recall proceedings could be initiated one year after a national election or one year prior to the national election.

3. Participation-

The principle of participation is anchored on the basic fact that people are the very heart of the nation’s development. They are not only the ultimate beneficiaries of progress, but are also the agents of innovation and advancement in the society, through their active involvement in the policy and decision making process.

The principle of participation is now enshrined in the 1987 Constitution under Article XIII, Section 16 thereof. It provides for “The right of the people and their organization to effective and reasonable participation at all levels of social, political, and economic decision-making shall not be abridged. The State, shall by law, facilitate the establishment of adequate consultation mechanisms.(emphasis supplied).

R.A. 7160, one of the enabling laws that implements this constitutional mandate, provides the mechanisms whereby the private sector is enabled to participate in policy formulation and development planning.

1) on legislation-

R.A. 7160 provides, among others, for representation in all sanggunian levels from each of the following sectors: a) the women sector, b) the labor sector (industrial or agricultural, and c) a representative from any of the following sectors: the urban poor, the indigenous cultural communities, the disabled persons or any other sector as determined by the sanggunian concerned x x x. The rules and regulations to effectively provide for the election of such sectoral representatives have been promulgated by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC).

This provision of the Local Government Code implements Section 9, Article X of the Constitution which provides that legislative bodies of local governments shall have sectoral representatives as may be provided by law. (Emphasis supplied)

It is unfortunate, however, that this provision of the Code has never been implemented. The COMELEC, as the implementor of this provision, promulgated on October 22, 1993, Resolution No. 2515, which prescribes the rules and regulations covering the first elections of sectoral representatives.
The first elections of the sectoral representatives to the sangguniang panlungsod and sangguniang bayan had been scheduled on March 26, 1993, and the sangguniang panlalawigan on April 16, 1993. Regrettably however, no elections were ever conducted.

2) on development planning

A new paradigm shift in planning has now been adopted. Local development councils are created in all LGU levels by the creation of provincial development councils (PDC); city development councils (CDC), municipal development councils (MDC) and barangay development councils (BDC).

The Code provides that at least twenty five percent (25%) of the total membership of the different local development councils should come from the private sector.

The planning process starts from the barangay development council. The approved development plans of the BDCs will be submitted to the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) through the MDCs, PDCs, and the Regional Development Council (RDC). The approved development plans, therefore, of the different LDCs will then be integrated into and form part of the national development plan.

4. Predictability

The consistent application of laws, rules and regulations creates an orderly society. It would be extremely difficult if laws are not followed, or if there is no discipline in its implementation.

Investors, for instance, would find it difficult if rules would be constantly amended, and specifications on projects already started would be abruptly changed.

It is important to emphasize that the four elements of good governance, transparency, accountability, participation, and predictability, are not enough to ensure strong and good local governance.

Two more important elements are necessary to make local governance effective:

First, the need for value-based and value-driven leadership, and second, the need for a genuine and meaningful local autonomy which the Constitution has aptly provided by way of the following provisions:

a) The State shall ensure the autonomy of local governments (Section 25, Article II)and value; and

b) The territorial and political subdivisions shall enjoy local autonomy. (Section 2, Article X).

The true meaning of local autonomy could be achieved if governance is more directly responsive and effective at the local levels. Through devolution of powers, the local governments will be able to chart their own destinies and make their lasting imprint in the arena of public service.

This is the challenge for you today, my dear students, to take part in the Herculean task of building a responsive local government structure. You have a very important stake in local governance: as God-fearing and as God-loving citizens and as future value-based and value-driven leaders of local governments, this is both a challenge and an opportunity for all of you to take on!

Maraming salamat at Mabuhay!