Monday, December 2, 2013

The State's policy on local autonomy is principally stated in Section
25, Article II and Sections 2 and 3, Article X ofthe 1987 Constitution which
read as follows:
ARTICLE II
Sec. 25. The State shall ensure the autonomy of local governments.
ARTICLE X
Sec. 2. The territorial and political subdivisions shall enJOY local
autonomy.
Sec. 3. The Congress shall enact a local government code which shall
provide for a more responsive and accountable local government structure
instituted through a system of decentralization with effective mechanisms
of recall, initiative, and referendum, allocate among the different local
government units their powers, responsibilities, and resources, and provide
for the qualifications, election, appointment and removal, term, salaries,
powers and functions and duties of local officials, and all other matters
relating to the organization and operation of the local units.
Pursuant thereto, Congress enacted RA 7160,227 otherwise known as
the "Local Government Code of 1991" (LGC), wherein the policy on local
autonomy had been more specifically explicated as follows:
Sec. 2. Declaration of Policy. - (a) It is hereby declared the policy of the
State that the territorial and political subdivisions of the State shall enjoy
genuine and meaningful local autonomy to enable them to attain their
fullest development as self-reliant communities and make them more
effective partners in the attainment of national goals. Toward this end,
the State shall provide for a more responsive and accountable local
government structure instituted through a system of decentralization
whereby local government units shall be given more powers, authority,
responsibilities, and resources. The process of decentralization shall
proceed from the National Government to the local government units.agencies and offices to conduct periodic consultations with
appropriate local government units, nongovernmental and people's
organizations, and other concerned sectors of the community before any
project or program is implemented in their respective jurisdictions.
(Emphases and underscoring supplied)
The above-quoted provisions of the Constitution and the LGC reveal
the policy of the State to empower local government units (LGUs) to
develop and ultimately, become self-sustaining and effective contributors to
the national economy. As explained by the Court in Philippine Gamefowl
Commission v. Intermediate Appellate Court?28
This is as good an occasion as any to stress the commitment of
the Constitution to the policy of local autonomy which is intended to
provide the needed impetus and encouragement to the development of
our local political subdivisions as "self-reliant communities." In the
words of Jefferson, "Municipal corporations are the small republics from
which the great one derives its strength." The vitalization of local
governments will enable their inhabitants to fully exploit their resources
and more important, imbue them with a deepened sense of involvement in
public affairs as members of the body politic. This objective could be
blunted by undue interference by the national government in purely
local affairs which are best resolved by the officials and inhabitants of
such political units. The decision we reach today conforms not only to
the letter of the pertinent laws but also to the spirit of the Constitution.229
(Emphases and underscoring supplied)
In the cases at bar, petitioners contend that the Congressional Pork
Barrel goes against the constitutional principles on local autonomy since it
allows district representatives, who are national officers, to substitute their
judgments in utilizing public funds for local development. 230
The Court agrees with petitioners.
Philconsa described the 1994 CDF as an attempt "to make equal the
unequal" and that "[i]t is also a recognition that individual members of
Congress, far more than the President and their congressional colleagues, are
likely to be knowledgeable about the needs of their respective constituents
and the priority to be given each project. "231 Drawing strength from this
pronouncement, previous legislators justified its existence by stating that
"the relatively small projects implemented under [the Congressional Pork
Barrel] complement and link the national development goals to the
countryside and grassroots as well as to depressed areas which are
overlooked by central agencies which are preoccupied with mega-projects.232 Similarly, in his August 23, 2013 speech on the "abolition" of
PDAF and budgetary reforms, President Aquino mentioned that the
Congressional Pork Barrel was originally established for a worthy goal,
which is to enable the representatives to identify projects for communities
that the LGU concerned cannot afford. 233
Notwithstanding these declarations, the Court, however, finds an
inherent defect in the system which actually belies the avowed intention of
"making equal the unequal." In particular, the Court observes that the gauge
of PDAF and CDF allocation/division is based solely on the fact of
office, without taking into account the specific interests and peculiarities
of the district the legislator represents. In this regard, the
allocation/division limits are clearly not based on genuine parameters of
equality, wherein economic or geographic indicators have been taken into
consideration. As a result, a district representative of a highly-urbanized
metropolis gets the same amount of funding as a district representative of a
far-flung rural province which would be relatively "underdeveloped"
compared to the former. To add, what rouses graver scrutiny is that even
Senators and Party-List Representatives- and in some years, even the VicePresident
- who do not represent any locality, receive funding from the
Congressional Pork Barrel as well. These certainly are anathema to the
Congressional Pork Barrel's original intent which is "to make equal the
unequal." Ultimately, the PDAF and CDF had become personal funds under
the effective control of each legislator and given unto them on the sole
account of their office.
The Court also observes that this concept of legislator control
underlying the CDF and PDAF conflicts with the functions of the various
Local Development Councils (LDCs) which are already legally mandated to
"assist the corresponding sanggunian in setting the direction of economic
and social development, and coordinating development efforts within its
territorial jurisdiction."234 Considering that LDCs are instrumentalities
whose functions are essentially geared towards managing local affairs, 235
their programs, policies and resolutions should not be overridden nor
duplicated by individual legislators, who are national officers that have no
law-making authority except only when acting as a body. The underminingeffect on local autonomy caused by the post-enactment authority conferred
to the latter was succinctly put by petitioners in the following wise:236
With PDAF, a Congressman can simply bypass the local development
council and initiate projects on his own, and even take sole credit for its
execution. Indeed, this type of personality-driven project identification has
not only contributed little to the overall development of the district, but
has even contributed to "further weakening infrastructure planning and
coordination efforts of the government."
Thus, insofar as individual legislators are authorized to intervene in
purely local matters and thereby subvert genuine local autonomy, the 2013
PDAF Article as well as all other similar forms of Congressional Pork Barrel
is deemed unconstitutional.

No comments: