The Inter-Agency Task Force on Federalism created under Memorandum Circular No. 52 series of 2018 of the Office of the President on October 2018. It is primarily tasked to massively engage the public on matters relating to federalism, knowing fully well the urgent need of raising public awareness on federalism and constitutional reforms that are about to happen to the country.
The country needed these reforms to bring true development to the whole country which will make the ordinary household move away from the conditions of poverty, hunger, uncertainty. The core of the country’s problem is the lack of effective governmental instruments that can effectively address the needs for public service any time of the day, any day of the week.
And in any reform to happen, be it in our personal or official functions, there is the need to be informed of the kind of changes, and how the change will affect our conditions of living. Although federalism is a system that had proven its effectiveness across history, it remains to be solution needing application.
Meaning, it needs every individual to look at its nook and corners, for, after all, we only have one country and one future.
Going back to IATF, the DILG as the lead agency is assisted by ten other (10) other agencies such as DOJ, Cabinet Secretariat, Presidential Management Staff, Presidential Communications Operations Office, Office of the Presidential Spokesperson, Presidential Legislative Liaison Office, Office of the Political Adviser, Commission on Higher Education, Development Academy of the Philippines and the University of the Philippines Law Center.
The main document used by the IATF is the draft Bayanihan Constitution of the Consultative Committee. If we may remember, President Duterte issued Executive Order 10 to compose a committee to review the 1987 Constitution to ensure the faithful reflection of the needs, ideals, and aspirations of the Filipino people.
If we can observe, the President is doing the necessary steps in making sure that the biggest reform to happen cannot be of service to one, it will be of service to the Filipino people. The President gathered best minds to find the link between the Constitution with what the people truly need and the kind of government that will address these needs.
Then PRRD created the primary mechanism to demystify the proposed reforms in the format of a Constitution, and the President ordered the DILG to take the lead, being the first service line and the nearest bureaucracy to the people. The wisdom of IATF takes on looking at the details, see the trees and roots, then, later on, combine in full length to see the seamlessness of the forest. The Task Force created clusters to focus on items of review. These clusters are the Structure of Federal Government, Structure of Regional and Local Government, Intergovernmental Relations, Fiscal and Financial Administration, National Economy and Patrimony, Accountability of Public officers, Constitutional Commissions, Rights and Obligations, National Territory and Security, and the Transitory Provisions.
MinDA is part of the last Transitory Provisions Cluster. The transitory provision is the most intricate and most complicated given that this will bridge the current system, without disturbing drastically the services that affect the people, towards a condition that is anew, both theory and practice. The transition is where all the howls and fear are found; it is where the deep gorge where the cloud of doubts concentrate, and this is where guideposts should also be erected.
The Retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno was the one who took charge in the writing of the provisions of Article 22, Transitory Provisions. He was also present, along with Retired Justice Antonio Eduardo Nachura to explain how to make a good stride through the transition.
As a member of the Transitory Provision, MinDA guided by the long experience of the Chairman in local government, Sec Abul Alonto sees the wisdom of frontloading the LGUs in the transitory provision. The sentiment of the Union of the Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP). Although there was no mention of its abolition, and in fact, the Consultative Committee assured that all laws that are not contrary to federalism remain operational.
A mention of the structure of government necessitates power. If this happens, then the overlap of authorities between the Federal government and the Regional government will happen. In effect, the power of supervision may primarily be affected which is the “very spine of federalism” as explained by Prof. Edmund Tayao who is also a member of the Consultative Committee in the meeting last April 4. But a mention of LGU’s structure and the principle of “no reduction of IRA” in the transition is a sure ticket to win the support of the LGUs and of course the people they serve.
The IATF-TRP Chair and DAP President Atty. Engelbert Coronan, Jr able to traffic and present to the body for consideration of the ConCom that a mention of the composition of LGUs but without mentioning its powers be made in the article. The effect of this provision is the blanket of protection of the LGUs, the cities, provinces, and barangays during the transition but limits itself from determining the powers which will be an authority of the Regional Government. As such, the people will enjoy the services of the LGUs; the local authorities won’t be in disarray in the transition, all at the same time as the Regional and Federal Governments are arranged to provide the system to be better and responsive to the needs of the people. I think this is already a triumph where best minds agree.