On 10 February 2011, the Senate Committee on Local Government, with Senator Bongbong Marcos at the helm, tackled the merits of pending bills that primarily aim to strengthen and fortify the morale and organizational efficiency of local government units.
One bill seeks to upgrade the position of secretaries of local sanggunians to the level of a department head, clamor for which owes to an alleged demoralization of the sanggunian secretaries in the LGUs. Sanggunian secretaries claim that while the Local Government Code expressly states that the sanggunian secretary shall be a career official with the rank and salary “equivalent to a head of department or office”, in real life, they are nonetheless being classified as “second-class citizens in the legislative department”.
After a lengthy discussion from various leagues and associations of local officials, Senator Bongbong concluded that the root cause of the problem was one of nomenclature only, since the obvious intent of the Code was to merely elevate the importance of the functions of sanggunian secretaries to be at par with department heads. There was never an intent to technically equate the two positions, since department heads on the one hand are essentially executive officers, and sanggunian secretaries, on the other, are not, being legislative officers.
Another bill seeks to grant local sanggunians, except barangays, the authority to conduct inquiries in aid of legislation, issue subpoenas, and to punish for contempt. Senator Bongbong said that these matters are supposed to fall within the ambit of the implied powers of a legislative body. He said that what are needed are just parameters to control the exercise of the power in order to protect the rights and interests of the persons subjected to such inquiries and coercive powers.
Another hearing shall be held in order to close the debates and to summarize the points raised on the bills, for the purpose of reporting the issues out to the Senate plenary.