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Disappointment and reset Featured

WHAT a huge disappointment the Duterte administration has evolved into after so much hope and hype were generated from the election. Instead of bold moves to restructure the country towards more manageable governance units, not much actual progress towards a unified vision with gameplan and timeline of transforming into a federal government has been achieved. The drug war has been discredited with outlandish claims of police “fighting back” and investigating vigilante killings that some count as high as 7,000 dead in total.
The Duterte administration seems to be expending much energy in fighting the previous administration’s leaders and current critics. Incredulous statements defending the administration’s performance to date weaken the credibility of the government. You cannot govern effectively for long when credibility is diminished.
The political meltdown gripping the nation clearly shows that the Philippines is losing ground and time, and showing again that it is not governable as a unitary state and while federalism will take time, President Duterte must reset the national political discussion and move away from the old subtext of persecuting personalities and move boldly into taking concrete steps towards the national vision he laid out when he ran for president. Time is running out because after another year of this governance crap, the pull of the mid-term election will release mega money for all kinds of media plays that will confuse the average Juan will all sorts of BS.


Empower regional governance now
No, something big, like real change, must happen so that a chance at unity towards a better Philippines can take place. I would say that empowering regional governance now through executive fiat is a much better call than to threaten a “revolutionary government for the remainder of my term.” The latter doesn’t open genuine debate, rather, it engenders dissent, fear, anger, hopelessness, etc. and ultimately opposition based on personalities who said this or that, not the substance that we need to talk about to move forward for the sake of our youth. That RevGov is not only unnecessary, but it certainly won’t work, generating divisive heat and will set back his legacy of systemic change.


The proposal therefore to improve governance now is to empower the existing regional development councils and transform them into “regional development authorities,” or RDAs, through an executive order. It will be recalled that such bodies and authorities are already included in Article X, Section 14 of the Constitution. (The President shall provide for regional development councils or other similar bodies composed of local government officials, regional heads of departments and other government offices, and representatives from non-governmental organizations within the regions for purposes of administrative decentralization to strengthen the autonomy of the units therein and to accelerate the economic and social growth and development of the units in the region.)


What will the RDAs be managing? It is proposed that the RDAs manage the central government functions that have not been devolved to the local government units and supervise the faithful implementation of all laws that call for LGU implementation. We should see the national government in charge of “steering” and the LGUs doing the “rowing.” Correct ordering is a key principle of management, particularly if the desire is to unleash human potential.


Thus, national policy direction on economic development, environmental and natural resources, public works and highways, education and culture, justice, etc. will be set by the national government through the various Cabinet secretaries and the President, but the translation to regional and local action plans and budgets will be done by the regional development authorities (present RDCs on steroids so to speak). Again, the transformation of toothless RDCs into national partners in nation-building with real budgets and power is something that can be legally done by presidential executive order without need for legislation as the constitutional language is such that it is self-executing (unlike the anti- political dynasty provision).


What RDAs can manage
In short, it is proposed that the RDAs receive presidential authorization to manage, on its behalf the following functions: directly supervise BIR revenue districts in the region, strictly enforce people’s participation and “bottom-up” planning stated in the Local Government Code; enforce the E-commerce Law by having LGUs display in websites their budgets and expenses; directly supervise the PNP units in the region; ensure rationale regional and local land use and sustainable development plans; grant permits in the use of natural resources; and, directly supervise the regional line agency directors to ensure support for the LGU developments.


Imagine the Filipino potential that will be unleashed when regional line agency functions, talents and budgets are now programmed by the regional development actors and aligning these budgets with the budgets of the component LGUs. In fact, even congressional “pork barrel” can be programmed from regional budgets making their project choices better aligned with regional development and at the same time making them more accountable.


A typical regional development council has a membership 75 percent from the government, which includes elected officials like governors, mayors of chartered cities and regional line agencies like the DPWH, DoH, DA, DENR, etc., and 25 percent from the private sector, including NGOs and POs.


Note that the RDAs will be beyond the control and influence of any one or two existing political dynasts of component cities and provinces as they would be greatly outnumbered and none of the power handles (police, control over budgets) will be under their discretion. In fact, on the contrary, these local warlords will see their powers clipped dramatically, allowing more rational development initiatives to flourish at the sub-regional level.


Currently, something like 50 percent of the total government budget is spent by the regional offices of the line agencies but the spending is dictated by the national and not the component regional local governments. For our own sake, let’s rationalize that huge amount of money and democratize it and at the same time awaken the largely apathetic locals due to lack of power and money. This alone can dramatically change the direction and tone of political discourse nationally and in each of the 17 regions that make up our country.
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