LGUs and the policy making process

Posted: April 10, 2010 in LGUs, Philippine politics, Political institutions

The president supervises the whole country and its politico-administrative subdivisions—79 provinces, 115 cities, 1495 municipalities, and 41,943 barangays.  These sub-national units enjoy autonomy but are under the supervision through the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

Each sub-national unit has a chief executive and corresponding legislative bodies chosen through elections and an appointed local bureaucracy.  In 1991, the nature of relationships between the national government and local government units (LGUs) changed with the enactment of the Local Government Code (LGC), which devolved significant functions, powers, and responsibilities previously exercised by central national bodies.

Local officials are also players in the national policymaking process largely through their role in policy implementation.  In recent years, LGUs have become more assertive and effective in articulating their concerns through successful organizations into leagues at various levels that are subsequently incorporates in an umbrella organization—the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP).  The political clout of LGUs has increased in recent years such that the current Arroyo administration has increasingly relied on their organizations to push policy change (e.g., constitutional change) and design government programs (e.g., ‘super-regions’ development) that cater to their interests.  This political clout is both a function of LGU capacity to mobilize and deliver votes for the president and to offer countervailing power to Manila-based power-wielders.

It is not a case that GMA draws more support from outside Manila compared to previous presidents.  We have already alluded (in other blog entries) to the symbiotic relationships between national officials and local politicians controlling vote banks.  What is quite unique is the assiduous courtship by GMA of political support from outside Manila to ward off political challenges from Manila-based power-wielders and coup plotters as well as to support constitutional change.  President Estrada tried to rally political support from the ranks of the urban poor in Metro Manila to oppose his political rivals and critics.  President Ramos did not face comparable problems while President Aquino, the first post-Marcos president, was more engaged in fending off military coup attempts.  Aquino had to rely on a professional military hierarchy to defeat the putschists.

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