Sorsogon Gov. Chiz Escudero is pushing for amendments to the 1991 Local Government Code to make it more responsive to the needs of the times, saying several provisions of the law had impeded the decision-making process of many local chief executives and the implementation of projects in the face of the ongoing pandemic.
“Many National policies detached from ground realities”
In his conversation with Mindanao-based bloggers over the weekend, Escudero explained that the public health crisis highlighted the need to change some provisions of Republic Act 7160 to enable local government units (LGUs) to carry out their mandate independently and efficiently, and not based on national policies that are detached from the realities on the ground.
“Ang una kong nadiskubre ay marami pala kaming batas na pinasa noong matagal nang panahon na hindi na applicable sa panawagan ng panahon at dapat gawin ng isang LGU,” said Escudero, a veteran legislator.
“Mas alam ng local government chief executive ang kailangan ng kanyang lugar kaysa sinumang Kalihim na tinatanaw lang tayo mula sa malayo.”
“LGUs chained to national agencies”
Rather than giving autonomy to LGUs under the devolved government system as envisioned by the law, he said, local government chief executives still need to secure the nod of government line agencies on matters like budget, hiring and health, among others.
“Yung Local Government Code parang nilagay o nilagyan ng tanikala o chain yung mga local government units at local chief executives. Hindi kami maka-decide na akala ko ba eh debolusyon ‘yan?” he asked.
To illustrate his point, Escudeo cited the case of budget appropriation, which to some extent, requires the approval of the national government even if the source comes from the LGU, including the Internal Revenue Allotment.
“Too much intervention from National level”
He also mentioned that even the creation of additional headcount or the right-sizing of the local bureaucracy must secure the nod of the Civil Service Commission, as well as health services which implementation must get the go signal of the Department of Health (DOH).
“Nag right-size kami, kailangan aprubahan pa ng Civil Service. Devolved ang health pero dinidiktahan kami ng DOH bawa’t galaw namin. Dinedemanda at kinakasuhan pa kami. Hindi ko maintindihan ‘yon,” Escudeo lamented.
“Kung sakaling ako ay makabalik sa Senado, palalakasin ko ang mga lokal na pamahalaan dahil sa paniniwala ko base na rin sa aking karanasan.”
“Harsh economic impact after May, 2022”
In the same meeting, Escudeo said he will combine his executive and legislative experience to pass consensus-based legislation to uplift the economy and help LGUs recover steadily from the harsh impact of the pandemic, as he predicted the economic situation to be worse next year that what the Filipino people are experiencing now.
“Next year, mas masama ang ekonomiya kumpara this year. Hindi lang natin mararamdaman sa unang mga buwan dahil election period. So, tatakbo ang ekonomiya pero dahil lang sa pulitika. Makalipas ang panahong ‘yan pagkatapos ng Mayo doon mararamdaman ang paghihigpit,” he said.