Decentralization in the Philippines

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DECENTRALIZATION IN THE

PHILIPPINES

By: Hadja Nena L. Namla

(Reporter) I

- Previous Decentralization Movement

Decentralization and local autonomy have been a continuing issue in central-local government relations in the Philippines for the last forty years, Inspite constitutional provisions on the promotion or guarantee of local autonomy, historical antecedents point only to central theme in intergovernmental relations.

Significant legislative measures within the last forty years started in the 1950’s with the passage of Republic Act No. 2260 or the Local Autonomy Act, the Barrio Charter followed by the Decentralization Act of 1967 devolving agricultural, engineering and health services to local authorities after the Decentralization Law of 1967, the next major significant legal development was the passage of the Local Government Code in 1983.

There were many programs and projects in the past , initiated to pilot the notion of decentralization.

All this past efforts on decentralization have a commonality; they all failed to achieve sustainability and/or institutionalization.

The causes of the failure were basic in any institutional program that attempt to introduce new concepts which, in turn, requires behavioral, organizational and political modifications. Some of these causes were:

1. Past efforts were disjointed and non-wholistic emphasizing on short term impact projects but sacrificing long term policy reforms necessary as the solid foundation of any effective decentralization scheme.

2. There was lack of a uniform interpretation of decentralization and a comprehensive policy framework with adequate political clout for any of the decentralization schemes to survive and as an aftermath consequently failed to attain institutionalization.

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3. Program strategies and technologies were not cost effective. Mismatch between objectives and strategies were experienced.

4. The local government bureaucracies failed to understand their roles and obligations within the context of decentralization and local autonomy. There was no top to bottom participation of all concerned to encourage understanding of decentralization and local government administration. A participative program which would have empowered those who were to be involved was not achieved.

Also in the past, academic researches and various institutional researches and various institutional studies were significant historical antecedents of decentralization. A 1987 decentralization proposal of the Department of Interior and Local Government led to the initial organization of a joint Legislative-Executive Committee under Administrative Order No. 71 of the Office of the President dated April 25, 1988.

The committee was task to provide a definitive policy direction as to how the central government may tackle the issue of decentralization and local autonomy in the development of the country. The same committee never performed its task and was overtaken by succeeding events that likewise attempted on the notion of decentralization. Under Memorandum Circular No. 111 dated March 16 1990 of the Office of the President, a new Cabinet Decentralization Implementing Team was organized by the President. One among other objectives was to accelerate government decentralization implementation. The new committee initially exerted efforts to accomplish its task but somewhere along the lost steam shortly before it can be felt by local governments. No significant accomplishment along decentralization schemes was achieved again overtaken by more substantive events that followed.

The Department of the Interior and local Government, like other departments, which genuinely shares similar concern, attempted to evolve a comprehensive and substantive program on decentralization. Except for its effort of sheepherding the 1991 Local Government Code recently passed by Congress, the personnel of the department can very well prepare the ground for eventual decentralization by advocating the local government capability be upgraded as a precondition to effective decentralization.

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II. Concept and definition of Decentralization

Decentralization can be simplistically defined as the rational

downward transfer of power within and/or outside a formal organization. This refers to a basic administrative concept and process of shifting and delegating power and authority from a central point to subordinate levels within administrative hierarchy, in order to promote independence, responsibility, and quicker decision making in adopting policies and programs to the needs of these levels. It also means the systematic and rational dispersal of power, authority and responsibility from the center to the periphery or from the national government to local governments (de Guzman 1987)

Substantially, decentralization has an administrative and political dimensions which are by themselves distinct specificities, but at the same time, are characteristically mutually reinforcing in the understanding of the concept. Decentralization is in some respect similar to degovernmentalization. Reducing the role of government in influencing the lives and fate of the citizenry is an intended objective. In that sense, it is a cyclic process of an accepted political theory which posit that governmental power emanates from the people and that in decentralization, such governmental power and authority are, to a certain degree, “returned” to the power source, the governed. It also means demystification of the public bureaucracy as the center of power that in the end, it achieves participative empowerment.

In public organization, administrative decentralization manifests itself in the deconcentration of power or authority from the highest level of the institutional hierarchy to the lower levels of the same organization. It may mean ministries or departments establishing a system of regional or local administration to facilitate decision making and more responsive delivery of services and thereby possibly achieve cost effective in the long run. The transfer of functions and powers under this concept can be temporal and can be recalled by the authority that made the transfer. Deconcentration can be achieved or implemented merely with administrative

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and executive orders; the primary logic for deconcentration is

functional efficiency and effectiveness

Political decentralization or devolution is most relevant and visible

in intergovernmental relations. The absolute transfer of power from the central

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Government to local authorities through legislation is the essence and spirit devolution. Centralism and a high degree of bureaucratic orientation are the Extreme of this particular concept in the decentralization continuum. The notion of local autonomy or the concept of “home rule” as espoused by the federalist, is most akin to devolution. This type of decentralization can be most meaningful to local authorities if in their negotiations for the transfer of certain governmental powers, it must perceived the triad of local autonomy, which are administration, finance and function or service. The argument for political decentralization is community empowerment, where people are given the opportunity to govern themselves so that they can have mastery and control of their own environment.

There are other types of decentralization schemes; one is the use of the parastatal semi-autonomous bodies that perform specific governmental functions. This is also called a real decentralization because it involves geographic consideration in the process of the transfer of power, Regional governance as an alternative to central control is a potential justification of this type of decentralization. Regional development authorities and industrial estates empowered to perform certain governmental and corporate functions and powers are of this category. Another scheme is delegation which refers to the transfer of government functions to non-governmental organization. Syno nymous to delegation is

privatization. The dualistic consideration of widening access to

governmental services and at the same time, debureaucratize public organization are the primary justification for delegation. Academicians and practitioners of development evolved a middle ground scheme which is a combination of deconcentration, devolution and delegation, which is called simply as complementation. It derives its strength as a decentralization strategy by absorbing many characteristics of all types of decentralization. This will include as prototypes of decentralization schemes, small efforts of

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help to get organized for their own development. The character and

success of such efforts are determined to a large extent by the framework of the central, political and administrative systems prevailing in these communities (Bhatt 1987)

It is important to remember in the analysis of decentralization, that the concept itself allows diversity. An argument is made that decentralization means dissimilarities. Logical or not, decentralization objectives and strategies may vary under given circumstances. However, it is also equally critical to consider that

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Such diversities should not be a “license” to corrupt the notion of decentralization, and thereby render useless its definition premises and meaning.

To argue, for example, that local autonomy and decentralization means “absolute independence” of local governments from the central government in intergovernmental relations has no place in the definitions.

All these decentralization schemes theoretically can lead to two ultimate objectives: efficiency and empowerment. To these two, others will readily add democracy and development. However, the operationalization of these notions requires certain precondition in order to attain effective decentralization. Under a given environment, some of these bottom line prerequisites are the following:

1. Internalization of public accountability 2. Developing competencies

3. Policy-information management

4. Behavior modification cum training, and 5. Institutional reforms.

The concept of public accountability which refers to the responsible use of powers and the rational execution of duties and functions delegated to those who are to exercise or administer them, is the first basic requirement for effective decentralization. The notion of public accountability is a cardinal precondition. Those who are to assume delegated functions and powers must not only exercise them for the public interest but must be also ever be vigilant of the ethical and moral implications of their acts. The exercise of

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power and authority without being conscious of its concomitant responsibilities thereby leading to abuse of such powers is not a hallmark of accountability. Public accountability, therefore, is a virtue required of those who are to wield power in an environment of decentralization. The internalization of the concept among those who will wield delegated powers is the first cardinal rule necessary in the transfer of power.

Next to public accountability, the presence of competence or competencies comes next in importance. The power of analysis, resoluteness and even common sense, which generally is not common, is some of these competencies that are important in decentralizing functions and powers from top to bottom. Administrative competencies necessary in managing public

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Organizations, development capabilities for regional and local development as well economic and social competencies are organizational requirements necessary in sustaining a decentralization system. The need for policy analysis

And policy reforms and the continuous flow of information for effective local decision making are very much recognized imperative in any decentralization effort. Without them, any degovernmentalization schemes will hardly be effective nor will utilitarian decentralization prosper.

Among bureaucrats and advocates of decentralization, behavior modification can be critical element indeed in the effectiveness of the concept. Changing old or traditional norms that hinder or retard individual performance, imbibing innovations and maintaining a questioning but positive attitudes are the critical components of behavior modification. Those who are in a position to devolve powers must understand that sharing power is vital to the dynamics of democracy and development. In turn, those who are to exercise delegated powers carry the burden of molding a cadre of accountable public officers, Whichever is the case, actors on both sides of the decentralization process must modify their administrative behaviors and culture in support of decentralization implementation. This is where training interventions may have to be undertaken primarily to orient all concerned with the necessary preconditions for effective decentralization. Finally, institutional reforms, i.e. local capability-building from below, may be undertaken as a strategy to decentralization implementation. Certain

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structural adjustments or administrative reforms are necessary in order to facilitate the attainment of specific decentralization objectives. These five preconditions are the cornerstones for effective or successful decentralization efforts.

However, it must be accepted that decentralization as strategy is not a quick fix” or a cure all that can solve the administrative, economic and political problems related to national or rural development. Comparative experience in the implementation of various decentralization programs showed that its application did create more problems in the process before positive results were realized (Sosmeña 1987)

Experiences have shown that conflicting definitions and perceptions of

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Decentralization does exist. However, these conflicts of interpretation can be narrowed down if the following conceptual-objectively guidelines are kept in mind:

1. To what extent does decentralization achieve broad political objectives manifested in achieving political stability, mobilizing support and cooperation of

Non-governmental organizations and local communities for specific national Development policies?

2. To what extent does decentralization increase administrative effectiveness, by promoting greater cooperation among units of the national and local governments, including non-governmental organizations in the attainment of a mutually acceptable development goal?

3. To what extent does decentralization promote economic and managerial efficiency by allowing governments at both central and local levels to achieve development goals in a most cost effective manner?

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4. What extent does decentralization increase government responsiveness to the needs and demands of various interest groups within the society?

5. To what extent does decentralization contribute to greater self-determination and self-reliance?

The above guidelines also serve as standard criteria that can effectively assess whether or not decentralization objectives are successfully achieved.

III. Constitutional Provisions on Decentralization and Local Autonomy.

The more than 400 years of Philippine history since the colonization of the country by Spain, produced five constitutions, Out of these five basic laws of the land, only three in varying periods of Philippine history articulated the Filipino concepts of local autonomy and self-rule. These are the Malolos Constitutions of 1898, the 1973 and 1987 Constitutions. The 1935 Constitution and the so-called Freedom Constitution (1986) are of no consequence, as documentary expressions

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The Malolos Congress which approved the Malolos Constitution on January 29,1989 passed measures ordering the reorganization of towns under the authority of the new Filipino government (Ventura 1976) Provincial and popular assemblies were organized based on the philosophy of local autonomy and greater participation of the people in political governance, including the principle of direct and popular elections (Article 82, Title XI) During the same period. The Decree of June 20, 1898 provided instruction from the revolutionary government in the administration through local councils (Guevarra 1973)

When viewed in the context of the evolution of Philippine local governments, this revolutionary period was a short transitional phase from the Spanish system of local administration to the establishment of the American administration in the early 1900. While the structures and functions of local governments under Spain were retained by the

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revolutionary government, the desire among Filipinos for local self-government was more fully expressed during this period after centuries of Spanish colonization.

Some of the decrees issued by President Emilio Aguinaldo during this revolutionary time, including the concept of Apolinario Mabini on the Council of Government, expressed the Early Filipino concepts of governance, justice and liberty. These thoughts were the indicators of how the Filipinos conceived of the First Philippine Republic, mirroring the lessons learned from the West of the ideals of freedom, democracy and the art of governance.

The specific direction for local autonomy was articulated and made more evident among the laws of the Malolos congress of the First Philippine Republic. During the same period in Philippine History, the Philippines might have been influenced by the American tradition of liberalism and self-rule when American policies were then shaped by the established civil administration in the islands (Sosmeña 1980).

The 1935 Constitution merely incorporated the power of general supervision by the President over bureaus and offices, including local government as provided by law (Section 10, Article VII, 1935 Constitution). For decades, this high

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centralism manifested itself most vividly in intergovernmental relations. What the Malolos Constitution contemplated was not given life and meaning in the Commonwealth Constitution in the decade of the thirties. So, thirty six years later and the 1971 Constitutional Convention, efforts were made to draft a separate article on local governments and local autonomy. There was fifty-three proposal made at the basis for the two articles on local government and local autonomy, which all embodied the common theme for greater autonomy.

It is of great significance to consider that running through almost all the proposals is the common theme, which is this: the need for the State to promote local autonomy and embody in the new constitution appropriate

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Provisions on local governments. The consensus along this direction is so

strong to be ignored and has to be accordingly written in the new Constitution. The delegates deplore the fact that despite the basic importance of local administrative units in the social and the political setup, there is scant mention of them in the present Constitution (1935). This failing has to be remedied (Amante 1971).

In the words of constitutional delegate Felix Alfelor, Jr., the 1973 Constitution binds the central government for all time to assure the permanence of local autonomy. Reference was made to Section 10 of Article 11 and the whole sections of Article XI. Another justification for the 1973 Constitution came from the Presidency with these words:

The New Constitution of 1973 was drafted in recognition of emerging realities and problems which the framers of the 1935 has not foreseen. The political experience of the Filipino people revealed crucial provisions of the old charter to be hopelessly outmoded (Marcos 1978). There were several provisions in the 1973 Constitution which encourage the initiation of decentralization. These were specifically Section 10, Article II and Sections 1-5, Article XI. One constitutional provision which was and still is really genuinely supportive to local autonomy is Section 4(2), Article XI, which

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encouraged local authorities to pool their resources in initiating projects and activities which are mutually beneficial to them.

The 1971 constitutional delegates conscious of the realities of national development and of the limiting powers of the constitution over constituent organs of government, included a separate article on local government in the 1973 Constitution. They held the view that constitutional law is a superior and a moral binding force, either because it is the will of the people of the product of a supreme law making authority, such as a constituent assembly. Therefore, once a constitution is accepted is accepted, it receives the support

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in society of forces working against change as well as of those in favor of existing institutions.

With the inclusion of Article XI and Section 10 of Article II of 1973 constitution , local governments in the Philippines were not only recognized as vital constituencies, but they have also been given distinct political existence.

After the Marcos government, i.e. more specifically on March 25, 1986, Proclamation No. 3 or the Freedom Constitution was ordained by the Revolutionary Government. Section 3, Article II of this constitution added the power of control over local governments, in addition to the traditional power of general supervision by the President over local authorities for justifiable reasons under a revolutionary situation, the Freedom Constitution was the most control-oriented of all the constitutions that Philippine history has produced. However, this Constitution did not last long and the Constitutional Commission of 1986 adopted on October 15, 1986, a new Constitution which also abolished the Marcos Constitution of 1973.

As far as its provisions on decentralization and local autonomy are concerned, no radical departure has been made in the constitution of 1987 compared to the 1973 constitution. Except for the fact that the Local Government Article of the 1987 Constitution has more sections (twenty-one) than the Local Government Article of the Constitution of 1973, the only other significant provision was on the creation of the autonomous governments. It can be gleaned from this short historical summary therefore, that except for the Commonwealth Constitution of 1935 and the Freedom Constitution of 1986. All other Philippine constitutions advocated for local autonomy and for decentralization government.

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However, the biggest question at the present time is whether there will be a sustained political support that will continue to initiate the enabling laws that will give life and meaning to the constitutional mandate popular government and decentralization.

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The analytical value of reviewing the legal jurisprudence on local autonomy as interpreted by the Supreme Court during a particular historical period will indicate a pettern as to how decentralization and local autonomy are perceived by the judicial courts. The views of the courts on the subject is relevant to the review of decentralization, since the courts are the final arbiter in interpreting the provisions of the constitution on the subject.

For the last forty years, the Supreme Court has decided on several cases illustrating how judicial interpretation on local autonomy varied over time. These erratic perception of what decentralization is, may perhaps be a function of a specific historical time and influenced by government advocacy of certain national policies necessary in a given period of history. Nevertheless, the historical antecedents in this regard will provide the legal judicial dimension of decentralization which will enrich the understanding of the subject beyond its administrative, development, legislative and political ramifications.

Consider, for example, decisions of the Supreme Court in the decade of the forties that straddled between a centralist tendency and an advocacy on local autonomy.

In the case of Icard vs. City of Baguio, it was held by the Supreme Court that Baguio City , being a municipal corporation, has no inherent power to tax (83 Phil. 870, May 31, 1949). In this case, the Supreme Court decided that a statute must plainly show an intent to confer that power to a municipal corporation. Otherwise, doubt and ambiguity arising from the term use in granting that power must be resolved against the municipality. During the same year and period, the highest court of the land, decided in the case of Eastern Theatrical Co., Inc., et. al. vs. Alfonso, that the City of manila has the power to collect taxes of business establishments because Commonwealth Act No. 466 as amended by Republic Act

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No. 39 did not withdraw the taxing powers from the City of Manila (83 Phil. 852, May 1949). Thus from these two decisions on the same subject, the Supreme Court apparently had two different perceptions as to how the power to tax may be exercised by local authorities.

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The Supreme Court hold on to the same view in the case of the City of Iloilo vs. Villanueva (105 Phil. 337, May 23, 1959), ten years after the Icard vs. City of Baguio case.

In the 1950’s and above the enactment of the Local Autonomy Law (1959) or Republic Act 2264, the Supreme Court begun moving towards the notion of local autonomy, in the case brought before it. In the case of Hebron vs. Reyes, the Supreme Court maintained that the “President has the power of supervision but not control over local officials” (104 Phil. 175, July 28, 1958). The Mondano vs. Selvosa case (97 Phil. 143, May 30,1955) also expressed the same decentralist position on intergovernmental relations. Almost the same period, the Supreme Court sustained the validity of an ordinance of the City Council of Manila, which seeks to regulate hotels, motels and the like, as a police measure (Ermita-Malate Hotel and Motel Operators Associations vs. City of Manila, L-24693, July 31, 1967).

During the sisties, the Supreme Court nullified Executive Orders of the President creating municipalities. (San Joaquin vs. Siva, L-19870,SCRA 559, March 1967), Malabang vs. Benito, L-28113 (27 SCRA 533, March 28,1969) and Pelaez vs, Auditor General, L-23826 (15 SCRA 569, December 24,1965) are the leading cases that showed a decentralist position in central-local government relations.

In the 1970’s and onto the eighties, the Supreme Court clearly opted for decentralization principles as articulated in its decision in various local government cases.

Om January 30, 1979, for example, the Supreme Court decided that municipal corporations were allowed much discretion in determining the rates of imposing license fees, even in the case of purely police measures (Norther Philippines Tobacco Corporation vs. Municipality of Agoo, La Union No. L-26447, 31 SCRA 304). The trend whereby the Supreme Court decided that municipal corporation or local governments can exercise more extensively taxing powers continued throughout the decade of the seventies. Section 5, Article XI of the

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1973 Constitution was cited, to have empowered local governments to create their own sources of revenue and to levy taxes, subject to such

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limitations as may be provided by law. The Supreme Court made this citation in support of Ordinance No. 604 of the City of Ozamis which levied taxes against a shipping line operating in the city(William Lines, Inc. vs. City of Osamiz, 56 SCRA 590 promulgated April 23,1974).

Again, the same year, the Supreme Court batted the local autonomy as provided for in the 1973 constitution in Supreme Court Decision No. L-24916 dated February 28, 1974).

The same city was also sustained by the highest tribunal, when its power to regulate city streets was questioned. The Supreme Court decided that the City of Ozamis is expressly granted by its charter the power to regulate the use of its streets, the ordinance in question insofar as the Supreme Court is concerned, appeared to have been enacted in pursuance of this grant. The parking fee imposed which was minimal in amount indicated that its purpose was not for revenue but for regulating the use of city streets (City of Ozamis vs. Lumapas, 65 SCRA 33 promulgated JULY 15, 1975).

In the decade of the eighties, the supreme Court decided on the case of the proposed creation of the Province of Negros del Norte, that voters in towns for inclusion in both the new province and those voters in the mother province of Negros Occidental should vote in the plebiscite as required in the creation, merger or abolition of local government units as provided for in the local government code. The Supreme Court was of the belief that people should be empowered to determine their local officials and their own destiny (Tan vs. Commission on Election, 142 SCRA 727, promulgated JULY 11, 1986).

The recent decision of the Supreme Court as it pertains to the creation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordillera Autonomous Region are by far the court’s pioneering decisions with respect to the creation of a new tier of local governments, which is the regional government.

Based on the developments of Local government jurisprudence in the Philippines for the last forty years, it appears that the Supreme Court was

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Espousing the concept of local autonomy but was “muddling through” in the early thirties and forties in its interpretation of decentralization as a concept of public administration. Probably this was so because the notion of decentralization was not fashionable during that time in Philippine history. Forty years ago, the court appeared to have been significantly influenced or guided in their perception of decentralization apparently by the following considerations:

1. Constitutional changes. Apparently, the judicial courts with its strong and traditional legal orientation immediately based its earlier interpretation of local government cases purely and strictly on relevant constitutional provision and other applicable laws at the time. The concept of decentralization and local autonomy was possibly “foreign” in the common language of the courts in the decade of the thirties and during that given historical time. The courts may have generally based its decentralization perception primarily on constitutional grounds. This point is important since it must be borne in mind that 1935 constitution did not have any provision on local autonomy until 1973 constitution. The resultant effect of this particular orientation then a centralist position by the central government, negating the promotion of the concept of the “home rule” which was earlier advocated in the Malolos constitution (1898). The judicial interpretation on the subject did vary accordingly as changes in the Philippine constitution were made over time. The constitutional transition from 1898 to 1987 evolved for the country, five different constitution in a period of eighty-nine years. Were if not for these provisional changes on local autonomy concepts in the constitution mentioned over a period of eighty-nine years, the courts would possibly have very limited jurisprudence on local governments.

2. Government Advocacy of Specific national policies. It is an impression that the judicial interpretation of local autonomy and decentralization was also overshadowed by the function of the advocacy by government of certain national policies that were necessary in a given historic period of time. During the commonwealth, for example, the government was more concerned with preparing the country for independence from the Unite States of America and the spirit of the Malolos constitution insofar as its provision on local governance is concerned was relegated to the background. This was so because at that time the issue of local autonomy was superfluous to the higher national consideration of the Filipinos for independence from the United States. Filipinos were then asking the

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Right to govern themselves instead of a colonial administration runned by Americans. The insurgency problems in the forties and fifties saw a centralist national government, an emergency condition that must have forced the central government to seek the help the Supreme Court to support its centralist position based primarily on the survival of the government itself.

From the seventies toward the nineties, in response to an increasingly growing clamor for local autonomy and governmental decentralization, the national government showed an increasing advocacy for local autonomy. Correspondingly, the Supreme Court was perceived to have positioned itself in support for such popular clamors, as shown by several of its contemporary jurisprudence on the subject.

3. Legislative trend. Early court decisions on local government cases heavily depended on citation from the spirit of the basic laws of the land, This was more so in the 1940’s and 1950’s when legeslations on local autonomy were scanty or scarce. At the same time , the courts presumably did not have much choice except limit its interpretation based on legal antecedents, the constitutions, including other legislative soundings. The period of forty years under review also indicated the progressive trend in the legislative mill as shown in the passage and approval of several decentralization measures. The Local Autonomy Act of 1959, the Barrio Charter approved in 1960, and the Decentralization Act of 1967 are some of those early decentralization laws. The later years saw the enactment of other decentralization measures particularly the Local Government Code in 1983 and other major pieces of legislations in local fiscal administration and lately the approval of the Local Government Code of 1991.

The three factors without doubt, strongly influenced the perception of the judicial courts as to what is decentralization and local autonomy over a period of four decades. Hindsightwise, it is interesting to ponder just how the courts would have interpreted decentralization and its related concepts outside the purview of constitutional and legislative provisions and with the courts up in their cerebral pedestal then crossing into the pragmatic world of public administration.

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Accordingly, the judicial court established jurisprudence on local governments under different times and environments changing its perception on

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intergovernmental relations. This phenomena apparently the view that decentralization as a concept constantly undergo refinements, because the notion of decentralization do change constantly in a given time and environment.

Thus, as can be gleamed in a historical trend, incrementalism in the promotion of the local autonomy concept, somehow allowed the courts a gradual appreciation of decentralization and its increasing relevance in Philippine polity.

V. Past Responses to the Clamor for Decentralization

There prevails to a certain degree, a conscious awareness on the part of local governments of the various moves previously undertaken as responses to the clamor for decentralization, These were programs which were primarily governmental efforts, such as:

1. The 1983 Local Government Code

2. The creation of the Autonomous regions in the Cordilleras and Southern Mindanao,

3. The creation of the Metropolitan Manila Authority in the governance of the National Capital Region.

4. The Local Budget Decentralization Policy, and 5. The Local Government Salary Standardization

Despite all these efforts, however, responses to the clamor for decentralization are still generally ineffective and fragmented. Pertinent to

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this observation are the following analysis of the past decentralization responses:

1. There was no commonality in the understanding of the concept of decentralization as evidenced by conflicting decentralization objectives, the net result of which made multi-sectoral advocacies of the decentralization notion non-complementary.

2. Inadequate and nebulous policy frameworks of several decentralization schemes.

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3. Deconcentration was primarily the approach, since devolution until now is a highly controversial strategy, given the present political environment.

4. Superfluous concern in promoting decentralization on the part of the central government has led to the imposition of unilateral conditionalities in piloting the decentralization schemes with local governments.

5. The absence of coordinating and linking mechanism necessary in the interfacing of various efforts towards improving regional and local government administration was a deficiency in all project experiments. Moreover, an effective monitoring and evaluation standards were also lacking, making difficult the evaluation of past decentralization efforts.

6. Decentralization projects were initiated by both government and private sectors, However, the government Has taken the major role in

this respect as well as the steps that are more significant.

There were varying project objectives and directions which did not promote cost effectiveness. Most present decentralization schemes were non-participative in their strategies and therefore, required correction to allow a more democratic and participative character. To the end, very few among local government officials involved in piloting decentralization schemes were aware or involved of the projects itself nor were they are aware of the project utility.

A summary of Projects/activities/studies in response to the clamor for decentralization is summarized in this review of decentralization in the Philippines.

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VI. Issues and Problems on Decentralization

As analysis of the summary of major decentralization issues and problems indicate, among others, an existing dualism at the levels where decisions and action programs are made. This is so because while there are positive steps taken by both the legislative and executive branches of government to operationalize the notion of decentralization, there are countervailing forces that negate positive results. At the time, the present decentralization environment is symptomatic of the confusing interpretation of the concept among various sectors of government and the polity as a whole.

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It can be said that the various efforts towards decentralization are major parts of the changing government policies and strategies to promote national development. Decentralization, it seem must be pursued not only with more determination and vigor but with a more rational use of scarce resources in piloting projects thereby achieving cost effectiveness and at the same time, aim for more participative strategies.

Analysis of the issues and problems points out the following conclusions as to why these problems exist:

1. Decentralization is a political decision that is at times, a function of economic growth and political stability, given the present Philippine situation and based on these two counts, a meaningful decision to decentralize government optimally seemed at present to be farfetched.

2. Decentralization both a concept and a process is “culture-bound.” It assumes both a public and non-governmental dimensions and at the same time, wholistic in character. Because of such considerations, a complete review of current efforts on the subject becomes very timely and relevant given the fragmented and disjointed approaches in implementing the notion of decentralization.

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3. There is also a need for a constant review of the role of recentralization in national development and its continuing priority in the national government agenda.

4. A strategic policy option for decentralization is to pursue it without threatening the stability of the central government. This could mean an incremental strategy. This holds true in an environment where the political will is inadequate to pursue the enabling legislations necessary to implement fully the constitutional mandates of local autonomy and popular government.

5. Any form of decentralization scheme should constantly undergo refinement because the concept of decentralization constantly changes in a given time and environment. And finally, it is important to note that formulating response decentralization models is a function of an interdisciplinary perception of decentralization.

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The issues and problems as discussed will only be resolved if the identified issues and problems will be given serious thought thereby initiating dramatic changes in local government governance, in particular and intergovernmental relations, in general.

SUMMARY OF MAJOR DECENTRALIZATION ISSUES AND PROBLEMS

IN THE PHILIPPNES

From out of the review responses to the clamor for decentralization and local autonomy, certain issues which continue to frustrate the attainment of decentralization objectives have surfaced. These issues primarily highlight: (a) the absence of commonality in the understanding of the definition of decentralization and its application; (b) absence of evaluation standards useful in the assessment of decentralization consequences and impacts on an integrated manner; (c) perceived weaknesses of the political leadership to initiate and sustain meaningful decentralization efforts; (d) absorptive capacity of local governments to assume increasing responsibilities is placed under questioned; and (e) non-mobilization of support systems in the polity as a critical variable.

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In matrix form are briefly described details of decentralization issues identified, highlighting problem foci which are specific to each major issue, including their manifestation and probable implications which, in turn, are related to the relevant decentralization principles that may provide the theoretical premises as bases for remedial measures

DECETRALIZATI ON ISSUES PROB LEM FOCUS MANIFESTATI ONS IMPLICATIO NS RELEVANT DECENTRALIZATI ON PRINCIPLE 1. Conflicting decentralization perception Questionable theoretical and policy frameworks of past projects Mismatch of objectives vis-à-vis Strategies. No commonality in the understanding of decentralization among and between central and local governments Disjointed and fragmented compartmentalize approaches in competing schemes Non-functional linkages between and among projects, researches and other

Not cost effective moves resulting in dysfunctions in intergovernmental relations and service delivery

Non-use or underutilization of previous and other decentralization Effective decentralization schemes attainable only through integrated wholistic and mutually reinforcing strategies that is interdisciplinary in character. 2. Political will is weak to effect meaningful decentralization Inability and hesitation of past congress to support fully decentralization advocacy Perceived Indifference of the Cabinet to view decentralization as an effective mechanism for national development Non-approval of genuine Local Government Code that will truly operationalize the constitutional mandate of :home rule” Apparent reluctance of Cabinet Members to share power with their subordinates or field units of their respective departments Nebulous understanding of the decentralization issues involved among various sector of society exist that a genuine interest on the subject is not widespread Highly centralized management of government continues Local authorities continue to raise the issue of local autonomy, others have proposed radical alternative by opting for federalism

Since decentralization is primarily a political decision, it requires therefore a purposive and governmental action and initiative Given the existing socio-cultural and political setting in the Philippines, the concept of decentralization may only have to be indigenized but should be formulated or packaged in a manner that it will not be threatening to the central government

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schemes previously implemented did not have an acceptable standards of measurement to the determine the attainment of decentralization objectives evaluation standards and measuring instruments as project implementation were being monitored

did not indicate project success or failure tracking difficult Analysis of decentralization project success/failure difficult Monitoring and evaluation results not adequate to support policy and program review

decentralization schemes should be evaluated whether or not the following are achieved:

1.) Promotion of broad political objectives 2.) Enhancement of the notion of Public Accountability 3.) Improvement of administrative and other competencies, and 4.) Attainment of self-determination and self-reliance (people empowerment) 4. Central government perception of local government capabilities to assume greater responsibilities is low or minimal Central government reluctance to decentralize power Structural deficiencies of local authorities that stifle effective

decentralization of services will have to be evaluated and periodically re-examined Over centralization Manila complex dependency syndrome continues Access to government and public services is limited and bureaucratically unresponsive Continuous articulation of issues that local authorities not performing will prevalent

The hesitancy of the central government to allow local authorities to commit mistakes stifle development of reliance and self-determination on the part of local government The preconditions to effective decentralization resolve around the concept of accountability, competencies and the ability to formulate policies and to use information effectively for management. Unless the lower levels of the government or those who are to exercise

decentralization powers are allowed to make mistakes, local capability-building may not be attained as fast as contemplated 5. Involvement of

the local government bureaucracy in the piloting or implementation of decentralization schemes Local participation is limited to sectoral agencies directly involved in decentralized projects.

The majority of the members of the local bureaucracy are not participants in the project process, leading to compartmentalizatio n. Majority of the members of the local bureaucracy are primarily “decentralization Watchers” with no involvement whatsoever in project implementation Decentralization schemes require not only a wholistic perception which is interdisciplinary in character but also participative

involvement of those who are to delegate powers and functions as well as those who are to exercise them in a decentralized manner

6. The required network support system in the polity

Limited participation is observed in the deliberation of issues Only national officials, academicians and

Unless the general public will support decentralization

Decentralization advocacy requires an integrated support

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is not mobilized in the society as a whole

local government officials are primarily visible in their involvement in the issue advocacy, its attainment will be difficult.

system in a policy that is pluralistic and where the dynamics of interest groups play an important role in the public decision – making process.

VII- Options to accelerate Decentralization Movement

Given the Philippine socio-political environment, four options may be explored to accelerate decentralization schemes in the country. These options will be systematic in approach starting in legislative policy reforms as priorities in the national policy agenda. Pilot programs that will experiment on various decentralization schemes can likewise be initiated in various regions to get an empirical feel of the dynamics of decentralization. While this may be currently done, a review of its decentralization implementation strategy is necessary. The exploration of public-private sector cooperation or working arrangements whereby certain public services may be degovernmentalized can be attempted. Any combination of the various types of decentralization can be experimented and produce a “mix” that leads to the “complementation model approach” in implementing decentralization schemes. These options are the following:

1. Devolution. This dimension involves legislative tracking of major decentralization bills now pending in Congress. This can be the most rational primary step in pursuing decentralization objectives through devolution. 21

Prioritizing legislative proposals which are urgent and supportive to decentralization and local autonomy can be made and subsequently analyzed. Making across-reference of legislative proposals with existing laws on the subject will allow congress to move effectively. What is critical in this regard is for the executive branch to work closely with congress in jointly tracking urgent legislations. Equally imperative is for an agency in the executive branch, which has enough political clout or credibility, to orchestrate decentralization moves as well as monitor its continuing development. This move now becomes more urgent as the implementation of the 1991 Local Government Code begins in 1992.

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Efforts in devolution are premised on the assumption that the central government has enough political will to implement the constitutional mandate of local autonomy to a much greater degree.

2. Deconcentration. Several decentralization programs are possible under this specific scheme. One involves reforms in the local bureaucracies in general. This can mean improving their overall and total capabilities as a pre-condition to effective decentralization.

Another is the introduction of structural reforms. This concerns a review of the organizational capabilities of local authorities to meet the challenge of complexities in local government administration. The focus of review in this regard is modernizing structures of local governments and the systems and procedures of local government administration. There is also the need to review obsolete local policies, ordinances, as well as rules and regulations which are not anymore responsive to the present environment and providing solutions to the problems of local government administration. In order to upgrade the performance of the local bureaucracies, a series of training interventions can be undertaken to improve existing administrative and management systems. These are efforts which are as important as devolution processes itself. These represent the substance of the concept of administrative decentralization.

3. Delegation. It is an accepted fact that the public sector is not in a position to fully respond to the service demands of its constituencies. The gap between “service demands” and providing access to public services is increasingly widening. What is logical, therefore, is the possible privatization of some public services primarily for the purpose of expanding government access for the citizenry.

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The delegation aspect in this regard, refers to privatizing certain government services such as health, education, or even the administration of justice.

Many private hospitals have been commissioned by local authorities to provide health services to its citizenry. Several public markets are contracted to private management just as education has a long tradition of public-private effort. There is an emerging number of non-governmental organizations that

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provide arbitration and mediation services, both an old function of the judicial courts in the administration of justice.

In this regard, a review of relevant and viable government organization may not only be useful but the utility of such non-governmental bodies be recognized and accordingly optimized.

4. Part of the systematic approach is to pursue with the highest priority, decentralization efforts, i.e., effective implementation of the 1991 Local Government code, work for its amendments geared towards a higher power orientation favorable to local governments. Fiscal reforms should be undertaken to correct lopsidedness in intergovernmental fiscal relations. Activation of metropolitan and regional governments should be given serious considerations to relieve the central government of public responsibilities which are better decentralized

Completed interdisciplinary studies related to decentralization, like the political and administrative soundness of decentralization, economic benefits of decentralization schemes and other research results should be synthesized and made as inputs to decentralization policy formulation.

Another important program direction to pursue in the advocacy of decentralization is the need to establish a network of support system in the policy. It is the observation that only restricted sectors of Philippine society are involved in articulating issues in decentralization. This sort of direction is important because in the long run, it empowers people to speak for themselves.

Unless the central government will be able to mobilize the political will that will genuinely implement the constitutional mandate of decentralization and

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Local autonomy, no radical and more meaningful development in this area is predicted. Moreover, if the socio-economic and political forces in the future environment will force the central government to maintain its centralist tendencies in intergovernmental relations, then the prediction in this case, is that the long history of centralism will repeat itself. Full decentralization as a

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goal will just have to wait until new forces will permit change. The opposite outcome of this perception and prediction would be a most welcome development indeed.

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1 These evaluation guidelines were primarily lifted from the decentralization writings of Dennis A. Rondinelli, a World Bank consultant and who is very much involved in formulating evaluation strategies for decentralization schemes.

2 The provision in the Philippine Constitution of 1973 and 1987 with respect to pooling their resources to initiate the mutually beneficial projects of cooperating local units have not been very well operationalized in the Philippines, Continuous efforts of promoting this provision as the legal basis for inter-local government operations is continuously being advocated by the central government.

3 The Supreme Court decision referred to herein is embodied in the case of Datu Abbas, et. al. vs. Commissioner on elections and Department of Budget and Management Secretary Guillermo Carague, G.R. No. 89651 and 89965 promulgated on November 9. 1989.

4 The listings of decentralization efforts in the Philippines cover only the period, 1985 to 1991 and only those that are of significant importance to the issue of decentralization in the country.

5 What is being encourage by the Department of the Interior and Local Government and other central government agencies is to pioneer in the research of what is the necessary support system at the community level in the effective implementation of the Local Government Code. The Philippine literature on this subject is nil and very scanty.

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