BUHAY Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza called for the implementation of local autonomy among all local government units (LGUs) before government even considers changing the present form of government to federalism.
“No president has ever implemented the full intentions of the present Constitution on local autonomy. This is why LGUs have been left wanting in development and continue to practically beg for funds, even though the Constitution already provides for it. Local autonomy guarantees self-rule, self-governance and independence for local government units,” he said.
“The Constitution also provides that the LGUs’ share in the national taxes must be automatically released to them. However, this is not being implemented and has even been abused in the past. It is not discretionary on the part of any president. Local autonomy must come hand in hand with fiscal autonomy to enable LGUs to realize their full potential. Federalism seeks to give this to LGUs—something that is already provided for, but is just not being implemented,” Atienza added.
He pointed out that all local government units must first be given the opportunity to develop themselves before the country shifts to a federal form of government.
“It’s ironic that local government officials who are at the forefront of providing basic services to their constituents are not given their just share of national taxes such as the value added tax (VAT) and even taxes from port operations in their respective localities.
Health and social services have already been devolved to LGUs but not the necessary additional funds that would enable them to implement essential development programs. They devolved the functions and the work but not the funds,” Atienza said.
He noted that the United States succeeded with its federal form of government because the first states that joined the union were already strong and independent.
“We have a strong unitary government but there are still a lot of LGUs that are weak individually. We must first give them more ability to develop themselves before thinking of shifting to a federal form government. Let us study this proposal very carefully so the people will understand what federalism would mean for the country. We would like to support and help President Duterte succeed in his programs but let us not dive blindly into the deep unknown waters of federalism,” Atienza stressed.