THE problem of the unfair distribution of funds between the local government and national government will be the main issue of aggressive discussion in the three-day League of Municipalities of the Philippines 2nd General Assembly now being held at the Manila Hotel, with Manila Mayor Joseph ‘Erap’ Estrada as guest speaker.
President Rodrigo Duterte was expected to speak before the assembly on Tuesday, the second day of the League’s national assembly.
During the presidential elections of 2016, Duterte passionately campaigned for federalism, saying it is the only way to turn around the supposedly defective system in place.
With federalism, Duterte said the local resources are for local governments to benefit from.
“If it is P100, you get P30, give it to the federal government, you retain P70,” Duterte said during the 2016 campaign, which he won decisively.
The 1,400 members of the LMP led by its president, Mayor Maria fe Villar-Brondial of Socorro, Oriental Mindoro said they will issue an official statement urging Congress to prioritize amendments in the 1987 Constitution to change the present unitary system into a federal form of government.
In his welcome address, Estrada said he supports the LMP’s move to make federalism happen, as he took note of the assembly’s theme: “Pederalismo: Ngayon Na!”
Asked why he supports federalism, Estrada said he fully knows the problems of a local chief executive.
“I had nearly two decades of experience in leading the now progressive city of San Juan. I know the problems you face because it’s the same thing I labored with for over two decades,” he said.
Even during his presidency starting 1998, Estrada said he was committed to empower the local government units.
“I can recall that in August 2000, I even made the following announcement: ‘The Local Chief Executives must be the shepherds who must lead their communities towards a better future,’” he said.
Estrada explained that he issued that statement following a decision of the Supreme Court concerning the Internal Revenue Allotment, a mandatory allocation which is due to all local government units.
“I believed it then and believe it now: We are the leaders who will guide our communities to a better tomorrow. But that will only come true if the funds meant for the communities are disbursed as they should.”
Estrada said he firmly trusts that this will happen under President Duterte, who completely understands the local chief executives’ concerns, having been mayor of Davao City for 23 years.
“There’s finally a light at the end of the tunnel, on the road toward federalism.”
However, he advised the delegates to be cautious in the discussion and debates concerning the shift from presidential to a federal type of government.
“But with President Duterte’s firm grasp of the situation – our situation – then there is every reason to hope that indeed, change is coming,” Estrada said.