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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Distancing and decentralization

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"We’re happy that Darna is finally distancing herself."



Former Makabayan party-lister Neri Colmenares, my friend with whom I’ve butted heads before in public, has lately been making online news.

First, a pro-government Facebook page called Up Up Philippines was taken down for featuring a face-to-face between Atty Neri and one Jeffrey Celiz, a former senior CPP cadre who’s since seen the light. Apparently the page was getting too many views—around 50,000 at last check—for the comfort of FB, who cited “incitement to violence” while continuing to ignore the over a hundred CPP-NPA-NDF pages that are still out there.

What’s notable here is the malign influence being exerted on FB by the likes of Maria Ressa and other fact checkers backed by globalist financier George Soros, whom we’ve long suspected has the number “666” marked somewhere on his skull. For Maria et al to now connive on behalf of internationally acknowledged terrorists is certainly alarming.

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Looking forward, we may also expect to soon see a public distancing from Atty Neri by his aunt, “Darna” actress Angel Locsin, who was being quoted recently for pronouncements in support of her nephew. It turns out that Ms Locsin is not at all partial to violence, nor does she take kindly to her blood ties being exploited for political purposes by the bloody-handed.

In light of more and more incidents of NPA casualties turning out to be alumni of NDF youth fronts like Kabataan or League of Filipino Students, it was about time that Darna started to put a lot of distance between her cinematic exploits and the faux heroism ascribed by the communists to what is nothing more than the tragic deaths of innocents led astray. The parents of those innocents will thank her for this.

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As we make our way up and out of the COVID lockdown cycle, we’re also learning from the mistakes we’ve made. One of those lessons is the importance of coordination among the different levels of local government (from provincial all the way down to barangay) and between national and local government levels.

At the start of the pandemic, the cascading of lockdown mandates—especially distribution of financial aid—was often touch and go, either with money not finding its way to beneficiaries, or such delivery failures not being satisfactorily explained. At the same time, it took too long to put resources on the ground, such as isolation facilities and, even more importantly, contact tracers.

In response, local government finances are scheduled to be beefed up starting 2022 with the implementation of the Supreme Court’s “Mandanas ruling” to include all tax revenues under internal revenue allocation (IRA) sharing. Just as important, the DILG is pushing to make the IRA allocation formula more equitable, by including relative resource endowment, financial need, and organizational capacity as additional IRA sharing criteria.

* * *

Many of these reforms won’t even require Constitutional amendments. A lot of them will simply need tweaking of the Local Government Code (LGC) of 1991. This at least was the conclusion of a recent study conducted by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and DILG’s Bureau of Local Government Development (BLGD).

The study agreed on the need for inter-LGU cooperation when service delivery involves economies of scale (such as water and solid waste management) or externalities (such as managing coastal resources and environment). Such cooperation naturally calls for the formation of alliances—some ad hoc, others permanent—that should be legally vested and properly registered.

Other changes proposed by ADB and BLGD:

• Higher-level LGUs should be given additional oversight—not just annual budget reviews—over their component units (Sections 29 and 32 of the Local Gov’t Code).

• Ensure consistency between an LGU’s annual budget and its medium-term investment program (Secs 319 and 324) as well as its development plans with higher-up LGU’s and the national government (Sec. 114).

• Reduce LGU dependence on national government by maximizing its own taxing powers, such as by reducing the share of corporate head offices in their taxable base from 30 to 10 pct (Sec. 150) and limiting the ability of national government to provide local tax exemptions (Sec. 192).

• Simplify local business taxes by replacing the graduated rate schedule with a single flat rate up to 1.5 percent of gross sales (Secs. 143 and 146).

• Improve fiscal creditworthiness of LGUs in order to increase their access to credit (Secs. 296 and 311).

• At the barangay level, simplify their mandates to focus primarily on health and social welfare, environment, public safety, and justice. Local governments are typically under-resourced and over-mandated, and the barangays are no exception.

These are important reforms that ought to be implemented by Congress next year—before our legislators get caught up in the 2022 electoral season—if we don’t want to be caught again by the next pandemic or other crisis with our pants down.

Readers can write me at

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