WHEN the Local Government Code was launched more than 15 years ago, pessimism was rife that devolving services and programs to local governments would have dismal repercussions. Today, however, many local governments are showing that they have not only used much of the powers handed to them by the Code, they have also accepted the responsibilities that go with these. Still, it is clear that even the most “successful” local governments remain very much works in progress and therefore cannot contribute yet to national development.

Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo [photo courtesy of naga.gov.ph]For sure, the forward march of local governments toward full autonomy continues to be hampered by enduring mindsets that tend toward a centralized system. The Local Government Code, admittedly, is not a perfect piece of legislation, and needs to be refined. Its implementation has been problematic as well, particularly in the allocation of funds from the national coffers. As it is, monies made available to the local governments have proved inadequate in meeting the budgetary requirements of the functions, programs, and projects devolved to them.

At the same time, however, the Code’s ability to bring about change is also dependent on the local chief executives themselves. As Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo, who has made significant inroads in using the Code to serve his constituents’ interests, observes:

“(Like) the Parable of the Talents, (the principles of decentralization) will only be meaningful if used fully, and not consigned to the dustbin like the wicked slave did, merely (burying) the Lord’s gold under the ground.”

We hope the ending piece in our current series on good local governance would prompt readers to look at their local officials more closely, especially in light of the coming elections. Read on at pcij.org.

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