COMMENTARY: Another lesson from the BBL

MELBOURNE, Australia (MindaNews / 1 Feb) – In designing the governance structure of the constituent state in the federal framework, the Duterte-organized Constitutional Commission (Con-Com) can draw inspiration once again from the Bangsamoro Basic Law. They can also consider the parliamentary structure.

The current local governance model established by the Local Government Code (LGC) follows the national structure. Meaning, power is heavily tilted in favor of the executive. This has allowed local politicos to exploit the system by ensuring the fate of the local government is highly dependent on the person holding the gubernatorial or mayoral office.

Harkening to Guimel Alim’s notion of “clan-inclusive government”, the existing local government structure has enabled the patronage relationship between the local chief executive and his constituency to carry on. Thus, perpetuating the unhealthy prominence of dynastic families in local governance.

An effective countermeasure against the domination of political dynasties in the sub-national government is to integrate the bayanihan spirit in the governance structure itself. A way of accomplishing this is to remember how pre-colonial rulers practiced collective governance over the tribe.

The datu was the head but there was always a council of elders beside him to help him govern. The alternative local governance structure can therefore be configured to reflect this pre-colonial tradition. So instead of a mayor governing in opposition to a legislative council, he can be mandated to govern in collaboration with the council.

There are two changes involved here. First, the position of vice-mayor must now be removed. And second, the adoption of a parliamentary type of structure for local governance like the “leader-and-cabinet model” used in the United Kingdom.

The result is local governance at the city and municipal level becomes a collective and collaborative effort of the mayor and the council with executive and legislative functions now merged.

This pre-colonial tradition of collective governance can also be applied at the provincial or state level. During this era, strong datus ruled with the collaboration of other chiefs. Indeed, important decisions were always made by consensus amongst the datus.

So again, instead of the governor governing the province (state) in opposition to a provincial (state-wide) legislative council and institutionally disconnected to the mayors of the component municipalities and cities of the province, he can be mandated to govern in collaboration with this latter group.

Two changes again in this regard. First, the position of vice-governor and provincial board members are eliminated. And second, the governance of the province becomes parliamentary in nature with the governor as head and the council of mayors as his cabinet. Governance of the province also becomes a collective effort with executive and legislative functions now merged.

However, a very important corollary to this restructuring is enhancing the mechanism of sectoral representation in each of the local “cabinet” to widen and deepen community participation in policy formulation and implementation. The collegial structure can likewise ensure policy decisions are borne from a collective and reflective mechanism and based only on the best evidence available.

The last component of this alternative local governance structure, and a critical one at that, is that there should be no overlapping or “ladderized” designation of functions as seen in Section 17 of the LGC.

It is simply logical to provide a clear and unequivocal allocation of responsibilities between the different tiers of sub-national government. For instance, the management of the local economy (including agriculture) can be assigned exclusively to the provincial/state government; the municipal or city government can have complete jurisdiction over the maintenance of tourism areas and national parks within its domain; and, barangay councils can have full authority over social welfare concerns of its residents. The key point here is that each level of local government should be given its own unique set of mandates.

In sum, these proposed changes can bring these foreseeable benefits. First, the removal of the vice positions and the provincial board members could amount to significant savings in the national budget. Second, decreasing the available political positions makes electoral competition tougher. This could potentially disturb dynastic politicos in their comfortable status. And finally, because local or state governance is underpinned by a sense of community collectivism, development planning at the local/state level can be more coordinated and coherent.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco, a practicing lawyer, is the author of the book “Rethinking the Bangsamoro Perspective.” He conducts research on current issues in state-building, decentralization and constitutionalism.”)