The potent power of supervision
The Constitution vests the President with the power of supervision, not control, over local government units (LGUs). Such power enables him to see to it that LGUs and their officials execute their tasks in accordance with law. While he may issue advisories and seek their cooperation in solving economic difficulties, he cannot prevent them from performing their tasks and using available resources to achieve their goals.” (Pimentel v. Aguirre, 2000)
The power of supervision excludes the power of control. In the aforementioned landmark ruling, the Court differentiated said powers.
“In Mondano v. Silvosa, the Court contrasted the President’s power of supervision over local government officials with that of his power of control over executive officials of the national government. It was emphasized that the two terms—supervision and control—differed in meaning and extent. The Court distinguished them as follows:
“In administrative law, supervision means overseeing or the power or authority of an officer to see that subordinate officers perform their duties. If the latter fail or neglect to fulfill them, the former may take such action or step as prescribed by law to make them perform their duties. Control, on the other hand, means the power of an officer to alter or modify or nullify or set aside what a subordinate officer has done in the performance of his duties and to substitute the judgment of the former for that of the latter.”
The responsibility to enforce the law is lodged with the executive department through the various departments under the control of the President as well as the local government units, which are under his supervision through the Department of Interior and Local Government. Exercising genuine supervision and exacting accountability of negligent officials is an absolute requirement, irrespective of political loyalties.
Per Tony Oposa’s count, we have over 180 environmental statutes. Yet, how many are seriously implemented by the local government units and by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (for certain laws)?
The environmental impact assessment system is weak, with DENR so notorious for lack of transparency and participatory process in the issuance of environmental compliance certificates, and in diluting the force and effect of the applicable laws. Why is the environmental impact statement of proponents not disclosed to the public, when the Constitution, the EIA law and the Local Government Code, among other laws, require full disclosure and public consultation?
Judicial notice can already be taken of the destroyed habitats (no thanks to unregulated coastal and housing development projects and lack of land use planning), vanishing species, and our increasingly polluted waters, air and ground. Management bodies for various ecosystems are not constituted or are lethargic, except for a few where there is strong civil society presence.
The plunder of our natural resources continue. Scuba divers are witnesses to the dynamite fishing that is plainly tolerated by local authorities. Municipal waters are still opened to commercial fishers despite the ban. Good thing, BFAR leadership is now looking at these issues under the leadership of Director Asis Perez.
Supposedly, a National Greening Program is in place. But, who can forget the 30-feet logs that dominated the desolate landscapes in the aftermath of Sendong? What happened to the investigation? Will the conspirators be brought to court?
Barangays, municipalities and cities are hard-pressed to enforce a very simple and easy-to-understand RA 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act. Why is waste segregation still not a daily conscious habit in many households, campuses, industries and even government offices? Eleven years after the law was enacted, why can we not have a mindset of waste minimization through recycling, re-using and composting?
Why are the mayors, governor and even DILG not exacting compliance by and holding accountable the component LGUs for their mandates? I asked the same question to a former Central Visayas director of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). I could not believe his response. For him, the role of DILG is advocacy, not filing of suits, which NGOs and citizens are supposed to do. Why is the supervisory function of the office exercised selectively? With such an uncaring attitude, is it any wonder that environmental laws are not working?
The Local Government Code encourages partnership with other stakeholders and clustering among LGUs, to strengthen their capacity. We have Ligas for almost every position. Yet, we do not feel that the Ligas are effective in enabling LGUs to do their job well. They are still deeply mired in politics, as if it is the only thing that matters.
With calamities occurring at a moment’s notice and their dire consequences to our life, health, and livelihood, we can no longer afford to be smug and complacent. Aside from having more citizens suing government officials for dereliction of duties, hopefully, the DILG and the Ombudsman will focus on imposing sanctions on officials for the continuing failure of LGUs and the DENR, to implement our environmental laws.
It is likewise a must for citizens to learn to avail of the provisions of Republic Act 9485, the Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007 (ARTA), one of the most empowering laws that Congress has enacted. This statute has made it possible for environmental advocates to obtain information and documents from local government units and government agencies which public functionaries would otherwise not act upon. LGUs and agencies are required to craft their Citizen’s Charter to guide the public about the requirements, procedures, delivery time and contact person related to the frontline services needed by the public. Sanctions of suspension without pay and even perpetual disqualification from public office, are to be imposed for the third and repeated violations of the law.
Law students from the University of Cebu College of Law created a website to promote the use of RA 9485 at http://uclawstart.weebly.com/.
It is hoped that the implementing agency, the Civil Service Commission, strengthens its partnership with universities and NGOs in ensuring widespread compliance with ARTA. We also expect the release the result of the survey it conducted on the level of compliance of the law by the public sector. Public interest demands it.
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