PRLS takes part in MILG’s forum on Moral Governance on BARMM’s Fiscal and Local Autonomy

Last January 19, 2022, in celebration of the 3rd founding anniversary of the Bangsamoro government, the Ministry of Interior and Local Government (MILG) in partnership with Policy Research and Legal Services (PLRS), regional local government units (LGUs) regional authorities, and development partners conducted a talk titled: “Ugnay Talakayan: Moral Governance on BARMM’s Fiscal and Local autonomy.” The talk invited the PRLS division heads as expert speakers to tackle the current discourse on LGUs.

PRLS Director Nassef Manadbilang Adiong, PhD talking about moral governance

On Moral Governance, Dr. Nassef M. Adiong, Director of PRLS, stresses the importance of creating the BARMM’s concept of leadership since our national heroes were greatly influenced by the Western and European concepts of leadership that were adopted by our country. Creating our own Canon of education specifically on the Bangsamoro knowledge production is also vital, being inspired by the first Muslim thinkers during the golden civilization of Islam. He calls for the inclusion of all types of leadership as mandated by Prophet Muhammad’s Charter of Madina—the first documented constitution in the world. Lastly, he highlights the five principles of moral governance which are Faith, Freedom, Moral authority, Common good, and Social Ethics, concerning community, justice, peace, and equality.

On the other hand, Atty. Sha Elijah B. Dumama-Alba, Attorney General of the Attorney general’s office, Office of the Chief Minister, highlights the main objective of Intergovernmental Relations (IGR) i.e. “To designate an important body of activities or interactions occurring between governmental units of all types and levels within the government.” It establishes Processes and Institutions through which the national government (NG) and local government units (LGUs) interact, specifically it settles the relationship between the NG and Bangsamoro Government. Atty. Sha highlights that while it has some given challenges, e.g., the lack of appreciation and awareness of the critical role of IGR, IGR promises inclusive decision making and develops unity in diversity. She further concluded that successful IGR needs strong political will, optimizes formal and informal IGR, empowerment of different social actors, and monitoring of implementation, among others.

As for the current trend on LGUs, Mr. Vincent L. Casil, PRLS’ Legislative and Research Division (LRD) Chief, tackled the effect of Mandanas-Garcia rulings and their implementation to admin regions. As the LGUs budget increases, Mr. Casil noted that devolution of services from the national government to LGUs requires the establishment of accountability and transparency in small units. He explored some of the coupled problems of LGUs devolution of functions, highlighting the lack of clarity in terms of its implementation. Lastly, while the ruling has its positive sides, (e.g. the long effect of its implementation), Mr. Casil concluded by citing “while we need to be an optimist about devolution of LGUs powers and functions, we should also be realistic on what is happening on the ground.”

Finally, Atty. Hisham Naz Ala Biruar, The PRLS Legislative Measures and Legal Assistance Division (LMLAD) Division chief has discussed the Mandanas-Garcia rulings and its inference to BARMM. Atty Hisham has explored the question that arises on the LGUs current trend “What really is the just share of LGUs in the National Government’s budget?” Then he underscored that as the NG implements the Mandanas-Garcia is the Full devolution of LGUs functions. This results in the National Government’s transfer of functions and responsibilities to various LGUs to perform. He concluded that the Mandanas-Garcia ruling cannot be implemented in the BARMM because of three things: the current transition of the BARMM government, the BARMM has its own government code, and the LGUs under the BARMM government are mandated by the Bangsamoro Organic Law.

As panel reactor, Akhmad J. Usman, Regional director DBM SOCCSKSARGEN, however, argued that transfer of functions is not the intention citing “it is not the devolution of functions but to realize the unrealized functions”, rather it is the complementing and/or distributive role of the NG. This includes maximizing the opportunities by empowering LGUs and requiring the LGUs a devolution plan.

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