Four presidential aspirants Noynoy Aquino, Manny Villar, Chiz Escudero, and Gibo Teodoro — all without local government experience — faced 100 local government officials in a forum in Makati City. ABS-CBN News, together with Newsbreak, reported on the story.
To be fair, the local government officials were unimpressed with all four. Rafael Coscolluela, chair of the Galing Pook Foundation, one of the organizers of the forum, said “If all that the candidate can tell us is that he will study it, we’ve been through that already. He has to say and do something good for us (the sector) and the country.
“If a candidate claims sympathy for [the plight of] local governments, he should be clear with his stand [on issues]. All I heard were motherhood statements. I want to hear specifics,” he added.
I am singling out Noynoy Aquino however.
For one, this is the first policy-oriented forum he is attending since declaring his candidacy. I want to see whether there is some substance to him, whether he is worth the hype.
Secondly, he is the chair of the Senate committee on local government. This should be his territory.
So how did he do? Here is the full report by Newsbreak.
Noynoy: Funding only for performing LGU
by Reynaldo Santos Jr.
Senator still ‘studying’ how to deal with local government concerns
Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, a presidential aspirant, on Tuesday admitted that he’s still in the process of “studying” how to deal with the concerns of local governments once he’s elected, but made clear that automatically giving them additional funds was not an option.
After giving either vague or indirect answers to questions on how he would empower local government units (LGUs) when their resources are meager compared to their responsibilities, Aquino said his position boils down to this: “Hindi lahat ng problema ang solusyon ay tapunan mo ng pera (Infusing funds is not the solution to every problem).”
Aquino was among the 4 “presidentiables” who were interviewed by local officials who had been recognized for their innovative and successful management of their localities, in a forum organized by the Institute for Popular Democracy, Synergeia Foundation, Galing Pook Foundation, Ateneo School of Government, and the Local Governance Support Program in ARMM.
Aquino said that it’s possible for LGUs to receive bigger amounts from the revenue collection of the national government without increasing the percentage of their share in it.
Currently, the internal revenue allotment (IRA) is split 60-40 in favor of the national government. LGUs want the sharing schemed adjusted to at least 50-50.
The senator said he has found some “leakages” that limit the sources for the IRA limited, and that he has already identified the ways to collect these. He didn’t elaborate.
For somebody who chairs the Senate committee on local governments, Aquino couldn’t state a definite stand on issues raised by the local executives, especially about devolution. He kept on saying, “Pinag-aaralan ko pa ho” and “Ako’y nag-aaral pa” (I’m still studying it).
He said the policy on devolution should be reviewed because it might be ideal to local officials but not beneficial to their constituencies. Devolution is mandated in the Local Government Code which, ironically, was passed on the 11th hour of his mother’s presidency.
He cited the example of Tarlac, where he served as congressman for 9 years, where the quality of services in hospitals declined due to devolution. He failed to take into account that the reason the LGUs couldn’t properly maintain hospitals is because these were devolved to them without the corresponding funds.
Local governments, according to him, must first demonstrate their capacity to manage resources well before these are handed down to them. “You bring down the resources to those who can make the most out of it,” he said.
Aquino advised local officials to observe localities that successfully handled devolved powers and responsibilities, and to pick up lessons from their successes or failures.
Aquino addressed that the LGUs should demonstrate their “potential to address whatever problem is besetting their community” in able to gain greater resources. “Kung may capacity ’yung LGU, bakit hindi (If LGUs have the capacity why not)?”
He didn’t say what mechanism he has in mind to determine which LGUs are performing, how they can receive additional funds from the national government, and from what allocations these extra funds for LGUs will come from. (Newsbreak)
The change we need?
I’m still studying it.
(Blogging this before leaving for work. I’ll be late now. Commentary to follow.)