ARE what will face local government units (LGUs) in seven to eight months' time when the full devolution process begins as a result of President Rodrigo Duterte's Executive Order (EO) 138 and the implementation of Mandanas Ruling next year.
With the anticipated increase in LGUs Internal Revenue Allotment share from 20 percent to 35 percent or even up to 50 percent, they are also set to assume more functions, services, personnel, and so bigger responsibilities and stricter accountabilities.
Are the LGUs ready for such bigger responsibilities?
Once the National Committee on Devolution, composed of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Budget and Management, President of League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP), and Chair of Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines, begins its works, it will immediately direct LGUs to prepare their Devolution Transition Plan (DTP).
The DTP will be a list of important plans that the LGUs have to finish before the end of the year. Among the basics are the updated Comprehensive Land Use Plan, Comprehensive Development Plan, LGUs corresponding Local Development Investment Plan, and priority Executive Legislative Agenda, and basic Functionality of Local Development Council and Local Special Bodies.
Since 2016, there has been a significant increase in number of LGUs which have focused on these basic plans and standards per LGC mandate.
Still, of 144 cities and 1,490 municipalities nationwide, 150 or a little more have yet to finish and put in place their fundamentals and standards.
Despite the backlogs, this is definitely a great improvement in local governance in terms of increasing LGUs internal preparedness and reorientation and redisposition of personnel and resources and their accountability to the DILG institution.
The bigger challenge, in fact, the ultimate challenge, is LGUs responsibility and accountability to the people, which is their DNA, the reason for existence.
We are aware of LGUs with so many reported accomplishments, accolades, and awards, like Seal of Good Financial Housekeeping, Seal of Good Local Governance, functional Local Development Council, and Local Special Bodies, among others, but remain detached from ground realities, cries of their people, poverty and insurgency, breakdown of families and their values, and not the least, deaf and blind to bureaucratic inefficiencies, graft and corruption, and abuses of persons in authority.
Good governance essentially means caring for people, ensuring their welfare and quality of life, having them participate in decision making, enabling civil society organizations and Peoples Organizations to empower themselves in governance, remain far from realities, far far from nice reports, and accolades of LGUs.
This is the spirit of completing the devolution. People at the center of everything. It's not about more funds, better reports, more awards.
This is the kind and results of responsibility and accountability that the DILG expects from LGUs.
I am glad that Bacolod Mayor Bing Leonardia is president of LCP, and part of the National Devolution Committee.
With his vast and rich experience in urban development, highly urbanized city management, notwithstanding his shortcomings and imperfections, I am ever confident and hopeful that he can contribute much to the realization of the expanded devolution.
I'm sure that other LGU heads like my friends Mayor Raymund Tongson, Governor Bong Lacson and Governor Degamo, Governor Gwen Garcia, and dozens more, have likewise much to input as well.
Let's give Mayor Bing and the rest the support and inspiration they need in this critical and pivotal juncture in our history.