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EDITORIAL: Quo Vadis Devolution?

The verbal tussles among local and national officials involving the use of the Athletes Village located at the so called New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac , had been abruptly ended, with the LGUs concerned giving in. Rightly so, given that the controversy involved an emergency situation affecting health and sanitation. Emergencies, especially about the rapid spread of viruses like the Novel Corona Virus (NcoV) demand prompt actions.

Use of the facilities in an area to momentarily quarantine overseas Filipino workers who are exposed to an emerging deadly virus ,is out of urgent necessity, justified. Otherwise it would be unfair to those who we even admit are the nation’s unsung heroes.

Instead however of urging that the local officials of Capas be slapped with sanctions, they too must be treated with understanding and compassion in standing against the use of part of the town for quarantine purposes. They are duly elected officials, it need not be said. Such being the case, they have to exhaust all available legal remedies to protect their constituents.

It is unfortunate that time is of the essence so that there was no more sufficient time to seek judicial remedies. Health and sanitation concerns definitely prevail over legal issues.

Be that as it may, with the hope that the principle that the government still operates with three equal branches, judicial intervention affecting the limits of central and local governments is long overdue.

A chain of incidents highlights the need for at least a brainstorming so that necessary guidelines to clear the air involving over centralization are put in place. Highhanded approaches that may put in peril the very core of devolution of power are alarmingly felt. Central government issuances, particularly of DILG, must be in keeping with the Local Government Code and more importantly, with the Constitution.

Otherwise, the long trumpeted bottom to top planning and implementation of plans and programs has been turned to nothing but a mere political propaganda.

Several situations relevant to the issue are worth mentioning.

At the height of the Taal Volcano eruption, an official of Talisay Batangas who voiced his opposition to the lockdown of their town had been threatened with administrative charges. On the other hand, when the officialdom of Tagaytay City stood firm to already allow reopening of its business establishments, the muted response by some central government agencies was that such decision is within the discretion of the LGU. Tagaytay, as you know, is a bailiwick of the family of Senator Francis Tolentino, a known administration stalwart.

The recent news about the prospect of probably suspending Pili (Cam.Sur) town Mayor Tomas Bongalonta due to the alleged failure to effect traffic rules and regulations also comes into play. There is vagueness on the extent of power or responsibility of LGUs when it comes to traffic management.

How about the warning by Undersecretary Marvel Clavecilla to Canaman town Mayor Nelson Legaspi about the repair work being done by the NIA somewhere in the barangay of Baras which had been met with assertiveness by the local officials who even expressed readiness to face court action if necessary?

At the rate events are developing, the process of decentralization or devolution of power or authority of the National Government to the Local Government Unit is at full stop or even moving on the reverse at a fast pace. And some local officials for self-serving motives or political convenience surrendered their prerogatives to the central government.

Outwardly, the present dispensation pretends to pursue the process of devolution. It would fail because of the elitist democratic approaches which breed another group of oligarchs that metamorphosed from one side of the fence and joined the ruling camp. Reactionaries they are called.

All these would have been avoided had there been clear cut standards on the matter. It is such a waste of time and effort. Quo Vadis Devolution?

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