Promise to decentralize nat’l gov’t has a realistic formula, Lacson assures
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Panfilo Lacson has assured the public that his advocacy to decentralize the national government and empower local government units instead is hinged on a realistic and concrete formula, contrary to unfulfilled promises of decongesting major cities.
Lacson was asked in a radio interview on Wednesday on how his proposal for the devolution of the national government would differ from past suggestions that were not implemented.
According to Lacson, it would start with the distribution of unused funds to LGUs, to ensure that progress reaches the countryside — things indicated in the Budget Reform Advocacy for Village Empowerment (BRAVE) bill that he filed in 2019.
“Ito nakuha ko ito sa kaka-scrutinize ko no’ng budget, nakita ko ‘yong noon from 2010 hanggang 2016 ano I think, ‘yong unused appropriations, P428 billion ‘yong average taon-taon. Doon na ako nakapag-isip na kaya pala nating i-empower ‘yong mga local government units by making use of the unused appropriations na ibaba, i-download,” the senator told Radyo Singko.
(I got this from scrutinizing the budget most of the time, I saw that from 2010 to 2016, I think the yearly average of unused appropriations was at P428 billion. That’s when I thought that we can really empower LGUs by making use of the unused appropriations which we can transfer it down to them.)
“Meron kaming formula dyan at saka konkreto at realistic ‘yong sa amin, kung may iba mang nagsasabi rin ng devolution, empowerment, hindi ko alam ‘yong kanilang formula. ‘Yong sa amin, maliwanag,” he added.
(We have a formula for that and our proposals are concrete and realistic. I don’t know how it works for others also advocating devolution, empowerment, but our proposal has been clear.)
According to Lacson, the centralized nature of the current government also causes problems to the COVID-19 response, as there is too much control in the decision-making, instead of being just a supervisor who would check if LGUs are working properly.
As an example, he said that the national government could allow the private sector and rich LGUs to procure their own COVID-19 vaccines.
“Hindi pwedeng centralized lahat ‘yong pagha-handle ng pandemya. Dapat ang national government, policy direction at saka supervision, mag-release sila ng control, sa nangyari ngayon parang nakuha lahat ng national government, eh alam naman natin nag-volunteer na ‘yong mga business sector, sila mismo willing sila gumastos,” Lacson explained.
(Handling the pandemic should not be centralized. The national government should only take charge of policy direction and supervision — they should release control, because what happens now is that it seems the national government has total control, but we know that the business sector has proposed spending for vaccines.)
“Pangalawa, mga LGUs, marami tayong mayayamang LGUs na willing sila bumili, pero ang nangyari, masyadong centralized na kinontrol — hindi lang supervision — kun’di kinontrol ang procurement, ‘yong tinatawag na tripartite. Pwede rin naman ‘yon, kaya lang, bakit hindi natin largahan, buksan natin, ‘yong mga gustong mag-volunteer, bigyan natin ng leeway,” he added.
(Second, we have rich and capable LGUs who are willing to buy vaccines, but what happens is that they control — not just supervise — procurement through the tripartite agreement. That is okay too, but why don’t we widen the scope, let’s open it for those who will voluntarily buy vaccines, let us give them leeway.)
The national government is expected to cede some of its functions to LGUs after the Supreme Court’s Mandanas ruling starts taking effect in 2022. Under the decision, the LGUs’ Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) would come from 40 percent of all tax collections, and not just from the national internal revenue tax.
This would provide LGUs a higher IRA, at around P1.1 trillion for local governments across the country.
Still, Lacson said that there is much to do, and the national government should start releasing some of its control on LGUs.
“It’s about time na bigyan natin ng puder ‘yong ating mga local government units, kasi taasan lang natin ‘yong degree ng accountability nila by way of reportorial, kailangan mag-report sila,” Lacson said.
(It’s about time na that we give LGUs the power to decide, we would just install safeguards like increasing accountability by requiring them to regularly report.)
“I think I started this in 2014 or 2015, ‘yong Budget Reform Advocacy for Village Empowerment na kung saan ibaba natin ‘yong mga pondo sa local government units, i-activate natin ‘yong mga local development councils, pabayaan natin silang magsagawa ng talagang cohesive, inclusive na local development plans, at ibato natin sa kanila pati pag-iimplementa,” he added.
“I think I started this in 2014 or 2015, the Budget Reform Advocacy for Village Empowerment where we would bring down funds to LGUs, we activate the local development councils, and let them decide on cohesive, inclusive local development plans, which they would implement.)
Lacson is trying to make a second run for the presidency in the 2022 polls, this time teaming up with Senate President Vicente Sotto III. The tandem has vowed to address problems hounding government today, by restoring people’s trust and pushing widespread development.
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