Dolores S. Corro, coordinator of the Mindanao Coalition of Development NGO Networks, said the two are among so many things left to be desired with local governance 15 years after the enactment of the Local Government Code of 1991 or Republic Act 7160.
Corro spoke with government officials in a press conference Wednesday in a forum held to make known feats of partnerships with local governments, private sector and civil society organizations.
She said a continuing survey conducted starting 2004 around Mindanao showed that most local government units have not convened the municipal development council or the city development council.
In Title VI, Section 106 of RA 7160, the development council is tasked to formulate a development plan to be approved by the legislative council. The development council, the section stated, should assist the corresponding legislative council at the provincial, city, municipal, or barangay level, in setting the direction of economic and
social development, and coordinating development efforts within its territorial jurisdiction.
But those who have convened the councils, Corro said, have done only at the start and end of the administration' s three-year term. "They have become rubber stamps of the local government units," she said.
Section 110 of the code provided that the local development council "shall meet at least once in every six (6) months or as often as may be necessary".
In Section 107 b, the code provided that representatives of non-governmental organizations operating in the city or municipality "shall constitute not less than a fourth of the members of the fully organized council."
Corro said some local governments that responded to their position paper cited lack of budget, thus they never accommodated sectoral representatives in the rooster of local officials.
Nani Villacorta, assistant regional director of the Department of Interior and Local Government in Southeastern Mindanao, said to cope with the constraint, the legislative councils have assigned sectoral representation to its existing members through the council's various committees.
Corro said "this is not supposed to be" and they are pursuing their advocacy for local governments to eventually prioritize citizens' participation in governance.
But Antonio Samson, S.J., who heads the Ateneo de Davao University, said there might be a need to take a closer look at streamlining the government's bureaucracy. He said the government is paying so much in too many levels.
Virgilio Leyretana, who replaced Secretary Jesus Dureza as the chair of the Mindanao Economic Development Council, said there are no shortcuts in achieving excellence in local governance.
He said local government units are key to the achievement of peace and development in the countryside. Leyretana cited the government's role as facilitator. But he said the role of the public, especially in paying taxes, is also key in working for fully functional local governments. "Governance is a citizenship issue. We forget that we depend so much on the government," he said.
Corro said peace and development in Mindanao can only be achieved in collaboration with the private sector and the civil society in governance.
The Local Government Code was approved on October 10, 1991 with a provision for review after five years. But Leyretana said it has never been reviewed since.