Bigger LGU budget OK, but senate hopefuls want oversight

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 15 2021 05:01 AM

’Sino SENyo?’ gathers senatorial aspirants to share their thoughts on important national issues ahead of the 2022 elections. It airs on Teleradyo’s ‘SRO’ program on Tuesday and Thursday nights.

MANILA—Some senatorial candidates on Tuesday expressed their views on the recent Supreme Court ruling giving local government units a higher budget.

Senatorial bets who were part of TeleRadyo's special program "Sino SENyo?" all agreed there should be a system that will keep local executives in check when using their higher budget allocations.

The program's participants included Sen. Richard "Dick" Gordon of Bagumbayan's Volunteers for New Philippines, former Philippine National Police chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar of Partido para sa Demokratikong Reporma, Shariff Ibrahim Albani of Workers and Peasant Party, and rights advocate Junbert "JB" Guigayuma of Labor Party Philippines.

Political analyst Prof. Edmund Tayao asked their opinion on the Mandanas-Garcia ruling by the Supreme Court declaring LGUs entitled to internal revenue allotments (IRAs) on the basis of all national taxes and not just from national internal revenue taxes.

Gordon believes this will be beneficial to the LGUs, but also expressed concern that it might also be abused by corrupt officials.

"Closer is better. Mas malapit ang pera sa baba, mas madaling magagamit, at mapapaabot sa lahat ng mga requirements ng local government, at kayang gawin 'yan. Pero kailangang bantayan 'yan, kasi baka naman magpapatayo na naman ng magagarang mga building," he said.

(Closer is better. The closer the money is to the local government, it will be easier to use and allocated by the local government. But they should be kept in check, because there might be some who'll just use it to build extravagant buildings.)

"Dapat gamitin 'yan makatulong sa mga paaralan natin, sa mga guro, sa mga teachers, para gumanda ang edukasyon. Dapat talagang guided ang paggawa niyan, kung maari, ng mga enlightened leaders natin dahil kung hindi, that will be another missed opportunity dahil may resources ka na. Kung gagamitin mo to build pantheons, sabihin, ‘Ako ang nagpagawa niyan’, eh wala na namang mangyayari sa ating bayan."

(That should be used for schools, for the teachers, to improve education. Leaders should be enlightened and guided in using these funds, if possible. Otherwise, it will just be a missed opportunity. If it will be used to build pantheons which politicians will boast about, then nothing will happen.)

Guigayuma and Albani agreed that a system should be established to ensure that the funds will not be used for other purposes.

Eleazar, meanwhile, said he will advocate for the Budget Reform Advocacy for Village Empowerment (BRAVE) project, which will empower LGUs using their budget allocations.

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The high court in July 2018 voted 10-3 in favor of former Batangas Rep. and now Batangas Gov. Hermilando Mandanas’ petition that questioned the government’s wrong computation and alleged misappropriation of IRA funds for LGUs.

In a decision penned by now retired Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin, the Court held that the IRA of LGUs under the Local Government Code (Republic Act 7160) is understood to be based on the collections of all national taxes.

It declared unconstitutional and deleted the phrase “internal revenue” in section 284 and other sections of the Local Government Code, because under the Constitution, LGUs are entitled to other national taxes, such as collections by the Bureau of Customs.

The high court clarified that the adjusted amounts of IRAs of LGUs are deemed effective only after the finality of its ruling, which means, the adjusted amounts will be given to LGUs starting with the 2022 budget cycle.