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C. Principles of local autonomy

1. PRINCIPLE OF LOCAL AUTONOMY

The territorial and political subdivisions shall enjoy local autonomy. (Section 2, Article X, 1987 Constitution)

The principle of local autonomy under the 1987 Constitution simply means “decentralization”. It does not make local governments sovereign within the state or an “imperium in imperio.” (Basco v. PAGCOR, En Banc, G.R. No. 91649, 14 May 1991)

Under the Philippine concept of local autonomy, the national government has not completely relinquished all its powers over local governments, including autonomous regions. Only administrative powers over local affairs are delegated to political subdivisions. The purpose of the delegation is to make governance more directly responsive and effective at the local levels. In turn, economic, political and social development at the smaller political units are expected to propel social and economic growth and development. But to enable the country to develop as a whole, the programs and policies effected locally must be integrated and coordinated towards a common national goal. Thus, policy-setting for the entire country still lies in the President and Congress. (Pimentel, Jr. v. Ochoa, En Banc, G.R. No. 195770, 17 July 2012)

a. Operative principles of decentralization

The formulation and implementation of policies and measures on local autonomy shall be guided by the following operative principles:

1) There shall be an effective allocation among the different local government units of their respective powers, functions, responsibilities, and resources;

2) There shall be established in every local government unit an accountable, efficient, and dynamic organizational structure and operating mechanism that will meet the priority needs and service requirements of its communities;

3) Subject to civil service law, rules and regulations, local officials and employees paid wholly or mainly from local funds shall be appointed or removed, according to merit and fitness, by the appropriate appointing authority;

4) The vesting of duty, responsibility, and accountability in local government units shall be accompanied with provision for reasonably adequate resources to discharge their powers and effectively carry out their functions: hence, they shall have the power to create and broaden their own sources of revenue and the right to a just share in national taxes and an equitable share in the proceeds of the utilization and development of the national wealth within their respective areas;

5) Provinces with respect to component cities and municipalities, and cities and municipalities with respect to component barangays, shall ensure that the acts of their component units are within the scope of their prescribed powers and functions;

6) Local government units may group themselves, consolidate or coordinate their efforts, services, and resources commonly beneficial to them;

7) The capabilities of local government units, especially the municipalities and barangays, shall be enhanced by providing them with opportunities to participate actively in the implementation of national programs and projects;

8) There shall be a continuing mechanism to enhance local autonomy not only by legislative enabling acts but also by administrative and organizational reforms;

9) Local government units shall share with the national government the responsibility in the management and maintenance of ecological balance within their territorial jurisdiction, subject to the provisions of this Code and national policies;

10) Effective mechanisms for ensuring the accountability of local government units to their respective constituents shall be strengthened in order to upgrade continually the quality of local leadership;

11) The realization of local autonomy shall be facilitated through improved coordination of national government policies and programs an extension of adequate technical and material assistance to less developed and deserving local government units;

12) The participation of the private sector in local governance, particularly in the delivery of basic services, shall be encouraged to ensure the viability of local autonomy as an alternative strategy for sustainable development; and

13) The national government shall ensure that decentralization contributes to the continuing improvement of the performance of local government units and the quality of community life. (Section 3, Article X, 1987 Constitution)

b. Policy Declarations

1) It is hereby declared the policy of the State that the territorial and political subdivisions of the State shall enjoy genuine and meaningful local autonomy to enable them to attain their fullest development as self-reliant communities and make them more effective partners in the attainment of national goals. Toward this end, the State shall provide for a more responsive and accountable local government structure instituted through a system of decentralization whereby local government units shall be given more powers, authority, responsibilities, and resources. The process of decentralization shall proceed from the national government to the local government units.

2) It is also the policy of the State to ensure the accountability of local government units through the institution of effective mechanisms of recall, initiative and referendum.

3) It is likewise the policy of the State to require all national agencies and offices to conduct periodic consultations with appropriate local government units, nongovernmental and people’s organizations, and other concerned sectors of the community before any project or program is implemented in their respective jurisdictions. (Section 2, Article X, 1987 Constitution)

2. DECENTRALIZATION

a. Concept

Decentralization – simply means the devolution of national administration, not power, to local governments. Local officials remain accountable to the central government as the law may provide. (Pimentel, Jr. v. Aguirre, En Banc, G.R. No. 132988, 19 July 2000)

1) The 2 General Kinds of Decentralization

Autonomy is either:

1) Decentralization of administration; or,

2) Decentralization of power. (Limbona v. Mangelin, En Banc, G.R. No. 80391, 28 February 1989)

a) Decentralization of administration

Decentralization of administration – occurs when the central government delegates administrative powers to political subdivisions in order to broaden the base of government power and in the process to make local governments “more responsive and accountable,” and “ensure their fullest development as self-reliant communities and make them more effective partners in the pursuit of national development and social progress.” At the same time, it relieves the central government of the burden of managing local affairs and enables it to concentrate on national concerns. The President exercises “general supervision” over them, but only to “ensure that local affairs are administered according to law.” He has no control over their acts in the sense that he can substitute their judgments with his own. (Ibid.)

b) Decentralization of Power

Decentralization of power – involves an abdication of political power in the favor of local government units declared to be autonomous. In that case, the autonomous government is free to chart its own destiny and shape its future with minimum intervention from central authorities. According to a constitutional author, decentralization of power amounts to “self-immolation,” since in that event, the autonomous government becomes accountable not to the central authorities but to its constituency. (Ibid.)

2) Regional Units v. Local Government Units

Two groups of LGUs enjoy decentralization in distinct ways:

1) The decentralization of power has been given to the regional units (namely, the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao [ARMM] and the constitutionally-mandated Cordillera Autonomous Region [CAR]).

2) The other group of LGUs (i.e., provinces, cities, municipalities and barangays) enjoy the decentralization of administration. (Mandanas v. Ochoa, Jr., En Banc, G.R. No. 199802, 03 July 2018)

The distinction can be reasonably understood. The provinces, cities, municipalities and barangays are given decentralized administration to make governance at the local levels more directly responsive and effective. In turn, the economic, political and social developments of the smaller political units are expected to propel social and economic growth and development. (Ibid.)

The regional autonomy of the ARMM and the CAR aims to permit determinate groups with common traditions and shared social-cultural characteristics to freely develop their ways of life and heritage, to exercise their rights, and to be in charge of their own affairs through the establishment of a special governance regime for certain member communities who choose their own authorities from within themselves, and exercise the jurisdictional authority legally accorded to them to decide their internal community affairs. (Ibid.)

The decentralization of power in favor of the regional units is not unlimited but involves only the powers enumerated by Section 20, Article X of the 1987 Constitution and by the acts of Congress. For, with various powers being devolved to the regional units, the grant and exercise of such powers should always be consistent with and limited by the 1987 Constitution and the national laws. In other words, the powers are guardedly, not absolutely, abdicated by the National Government. (Ibid.)

b. The 4 Categories of Decentralization in the Philippines

As a system of transferring authority and power from the National Government to the LGUs, decentralization in the Philippines may be categorized into four, namely:

1) Political decentralization or devolution;

2) Administrative decentralization or deconcentration;

3) Fiscal decentralization; and

4) Policy or decision-making decentralization. (Mandanas v. Ochoa, Jr., En Banc, G.R. No. 199802, 03 July 2018)

1) Political decentralization or devolution

Political decentralization or devolution – occurs when there is a transfer of powers, responsibilities, and resources from the central government to the LGUs for the performance of certain functions.

It is a more liberal form of decentralization because there is an actual transfer of powers and responsibilities. It aims to grant greater autonomy to the LGUs in cognizance of their right to self-government, to make them self-reliant, and to improve their administrative and technical capabilities. (Ibid.)

It is an act by which the National Government confers power and authority upon the various LGUs to perform specific functions and responsibilities. (Ibid.)

It encompasses reforms to open sub-national representation and policies to “devolve political authority or electoral capacities to sub-national actors.” Section 16 to Section 19 of the LGC characterize political decentralization in the LGC as different LGUs empowered to address the different needs of their constituents. In contrast, devolution in favor of the regional units is more expansive because they are given the authority to regulate a wider array of subjects, including personal, family and property relations. (Ibid.)

2) Administrative decentralization or deconcentration

Administrative decentralization or deconcentration – involves the transfer of functions or the delegation of authority and responsibility from the national office to the regional and local offices.

Consistent with this concept, the LGC has created the Local School Boards, the Local Health Boards and the Local Development Councils, and has transferred some of the authority from the agencies of the National Government, like the Department of Education and the Department of Health, to such bodies to better cope up with the needs of particular localities. (Ibid.)

3) Fiscal decentralization

Fiscal decentralization – means that the LGUs have the power to create their own sources of revenue in addition to their just share in the national taxes released by the National Government. (Ibid.)

It includes the power to allocate their resources in accordance with their own priorities. It thus extends to the preparation of their budgets, so that the local officials have to work within the constraints of their budgets. The budgets are not formulated at the national level and imposed on local governments, without regard as to whether or not they are relevant to local needs and resources. Hence, the necessity of a balancing of viewpoints and the harmonization of proposals from both local and national officials, who in any case are partners in the attainment of national goals, is recognized and addressed. (Ibid.)

Fiscal decentralization emanates from a specific constitutional mandate that is expressed in several provisions of Article X (Local Government) of the 1987 Constitution, specifically: Section 5; Section 6; and Section 7. (Ibid.)

The constitutional authority extended to each and every LGU to create its own sources of income and revenue has been formalized from Section 128 to Section 133 of the LGC. To implement the LGUs’ entitlement to the just share in the national taxes, Congress has enacted Section 284 to Section 288 of the LGC. Congress has further enacted Section 289 to Section 294 of the LGC to define the share of the LGUs in the national wealth. Indeed, the requirement for the automatic release to the LGUs of their just share in the national taxes is but the consequence of the constitutional mandate for fiscal decentralization. (Ibid.)

For sure, fiscal decentralization does not signify the absolute freedom of the LGUs to create their own sources of revenue and to spend their revenues unrestrictedly or upon their individual whims and caprices. Congress has subjected the LGUs’ power to tax to the guidelines set in Section 130 of the LGC and to the limitations stated in Section 133 of the LGC. The concept of local fiscal autonomy does not exclude any manner of intervention by the National Government in the form of supervision if only to ensure that the local programs, fiscal and otherwise, are consistent with the national goals. (Ibid.)

4) Policy- or decision-making decntralization

Policy- or decision-making decentralization –exists if at least one sub-national tier of government has exclusive authority to make decisions on at least one policy issue. (Ibid.)

In fine, certain limitations are and can be imposed by Congress in all the forms of decentralization, for local autonomy, whether as to power or as to administration, is not absolute. The LGUs remain to be the tenants of the will of Congress subject to the guarantees that the Constitution itself imposes. (Ibid.)

3. ADMINISTRATIVE SUPERVISION

a. General Supervision by the President

The President of the Philippines shall exercise general supervision over local governments. (Section 4, Article X, 1987 Constitution)

b. Supervision of provinces on component cities and municipalities

c. Supervision of cities and municipalities on component barangays

Provinces with respect to component cities and municipalities, and cities and municipalities with respect to component barangays shall ensure that the acts of their component units are within the scope of their prescribed powers and functions. (Section 4, Article X, 1987 Constitution)

4. LOCAL LEGISLATIVE BODIES

a. Sectoral representation

Legislative bodies of local governments shall have sectoral representation as may be prescribed by law. (Section 9, Article X, 1987 Constitution)

1) Local apportionment and reapportionment

No province, city, municipality, or barangay may be created, divided, merged, abolished, or its boundary substantially altered, except in accordance with the criteria established in the Local Government Code and subject to approval by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite in the political units directly affected. (Section 10, Article X, 1987 Constitution)

2) Special Metropolitans

The Congress may, by law, create special metropolitan political subdivisions, subject to a plebiscite. The component cities and municipalities shall retain their basic autonomy and shall be entitled to their own local executives and legislative assemblies. (Section 11, Article X, 1987 Constitution)

The jurisdiction of the metropolitan authority that will hereby be created shall be limited to basic services requiring coordination. (Section 11, Article X, 1987 Constitution)

3) Highly urbanized cities

Cities that are highly urbanized, as determined by law, and component cities whose charters prohibit their voters from voting for provincial elective officials, shall be independent of the province. (Section 12, Article X, 1987 Constitution)

The voters of component cities within a province, whose charters contain no such prohibition, shall not be deprived of their right to vote for elective provincial officials. (Section 12, Article X, 1987 Constitution)

4) LGU Associations

Local government units may group themselves, consolidate or coordinate their efforts, services, and resources for purposes commonly beneficial to them in accordance with law. (Section 13, Article X, 1987 Constitution)

5) Regional development councils

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. (Section 14, Article X, 1987 Constitution)

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