Apo Senator Aquilino Pimentel, the father of the Local Government Code, Governor Alfonso Umali, the National President of the League of Provinces of the Philippines; Mayor Herbert Bautista, the National President of the League of Cities; Mayor Sandy Javier, the National President of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines; Congressman Pedro Acharon, Jr, my counterpart as Chairman of the Committee on Local Government in the lower house; DILG undersecretary Austere Panadero, distinguished guests and speakers, friends, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.
Today’s launching of the review of the Local Government Code is a remarkable step towards a more comprehensive and holistic approach of amending certain provisions of the local government code. For this effort, I commend the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) thru the Coordinating Committee on Decentralization and the Asian Development Bank. I would also like to thank all of you who have taken time to participate in this all-important event. Your attendance clearly demonstrates an important and continuing commitment on your part to be with us in the entire legislative process of finally bringing into fruition the necessary amendments to the code.
We are all in agreement that while a genuine local autonomy as enshrined in article X, Section 2 of our constitution continues to be a work in progress, the enactment of the Local Government Code more than two decades ago with its core on local autonomy and its subsequent implementation had clearly set a vision that empowered and guided our local officials to a more effective and mass-based approach in the formulation and actual delivery of services to the public.
The decentralized system of governance had certainly brought public service at the doorstep of our citizenry. Despite its acknowledged success, I am one with you in expressing the observation that there are provisions of the code that need to be revisited and amended. Notably, there are functions that were devolved to local government units but the corresponding funds were not provided. In general, the noticeable inadequate funding of the local government units in effect compromised their autonomy and their ability to provide effective and efficient services to their constituents.
I strongly believe that local autonomy can best be measured to a great extent through its fiscal autonomy. Greater local autonomy translates into a more effective delivery of basic services to the general populace. Your committee on local government in the Senate, which I have chaired for the past six (6) years, has been involved since then in the crafting and deliberation of various bills which seek to amend certain provisions of the code.
If I may be allowed to enumerate the more significant ones, we have 1) the proposal to increase the income requirement for the creation of a province, 2) increasing the income classification for a highly urbanized city, 3) exemption from population and land area requirements for the conversion of a municipality into a city, 4) authorizing the punong barangay to administer the oath of office to any government official, 5) the magna carta for barangays, 6) direct remittance to the LGU’s of their 40% share of the ira, 7) increasing the IRA of LGU to 50%; 8) establishment of Brgy. human rights action center, 9) benefits for all barangay workers, 10) transparency in local gov’t finance, among others.
Colleagues, we have been waiting with great anticipation, mindful of the deadline set in the framework agreement for the filing of the bill on the Bangsamoro basic law since this aspect is widely believed as a welcome breakthrough of our long-desired peace in that important part of our acrhipelago. Again, both the upper and lower houses of your congress will redefine the meaning of autonomy that is now being enjoyed by our brothers and sisters in the autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao.
Incidentally, in the Senate committee hearing yesterday on the bills authorizing the Punong Barangay to administer the oath of office to any government official, one of the resource persons explained that the Punong Barangay has no authority at the moment to administer oath of office.
Then, I realized that during my stint as Governor of the province of Ilocos Norte, I remember taking my oath as a Governor before a Punong Barangay. Suddenly, the thought of the legitimacy of my stint as Governor was put into question. Buti na lang, fresh pa yong nabasa ko sa DAP case ng supreme court on the doctrine of operative fact kaya hindi ako nabahala masyado.
Fellow local government advocates, what has been presented and discussed today will certainly provide a substantial guide in our legislative work. I am confident that with your continued cooperation and unwavering assistance, our common vision for a more flexible, responsive and effective Local Government Code with the singular objective of improving lives through local government reforms will certainly be accomplished.
In closing, as Chairman of your Committee on Local Government in the Senate, I thank you once again for the opportunity to be a part of today’s proceedings.
Mabuhay tayong lahat!