BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim and Bangsamoro Parliament Speaker Atty. Pangalian Balindong sign the Bangsamoro Autonomy Act No. 49, or the Bangsamoro Local Governance Code (BLGC), following its approval in the plenary on the third and final reading on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023 in Cotabato City. (Michael Camsa/BIO)

Local governance code enactment heralds decentralization, efficient service delivery in BARMM

COTABATO CITY—The Bangsamoro Autonomy Act No. 49 or the Bangsamoro Local Governance Code (BLGC) heralds a move towards decentralization, guaranteeing the efficient delivery of basic services to even the remotest areas of the Bangsamoro region.

The bill, introduced by the Government of the Day, was approved on Thursday, Sept. 28, by the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) Parliament on the third and final reading with 57 affirmative votes, 4 negative votes, and 0 abstentions.

The BLGC, the fifth of seven priority codes enacted by the BTA, will promote transparency, responsiveness, and accountability within local government bureaucracies.

The newly-approved law will transfer administrative responsibilities and authority from the central and regional governments to local government units (LGUs), allowing them to respond effectively to local needs and establish a well-defined and harmonious relationship between the regional government and the local government units.

This simply means that LGUs will have the power and authority to manage their own human resources, procure goods, services, and infrastructure, and exercise substantive administrative control over the delivery of local services falling within their legal mandate.

Decentralization can be traced back to the first 1935 constitution but was reversed in the 1987 Constitution. It was also a key part of the 1991 Local Government Code, which aimed to give more power to local government units (LGUs) in the Philippines.

Bangsamoro Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim led the ceremonial signing and emphasized that the BLGC advocates for transparency, responsiveness, and accountability within local government.

“It represents our commitment to gradually and systematically empowering communities by entrusting them with increased power, responsibility, resources, and authority within the territorial jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro government,” Ebrahim said.

“BLGC stands as a historic milestone in our shared endeavor to achieve social justice and our pursuit of genuine and meaningful autonomy for the people of the Bangsamoro region,” he added.

Moreover, Chief Minister Ebrahim expressed his warmest appreciation to all the BLGC Committee members, chaired by Member of Parliament (MP) Atty. Raissa Jajurie, for their assistance and support to the BARMM government in crafting this code.

The LGC Committee members emphasized that before its approval, the BLGC underwent a series of public consultations, reviews, and careful consideration to ensure alignment with the vision of the Bangsamoro people.

“Aside from position papers received from all around the region, there were 8 public consultations in all the Bangsamoro provinces, Cotabato City, and the Special Geographic Area, and a consultation with experts and stakeholders within and outside the Bangsamoro,” Jajurie added.

The code has five key points that emphasize empowering LGUs and their communities, facilitating a gradual devolution of power, ensuring equitable revenue sharing, promoting democratization, and supervising the coordination between the Bangsamoro government and LGUs:

Empowering LGUs

The newly approved code enumerates powers to be devolved to different levels of local governments, providing clarity in the delineation of responsibilities among them.

This ensures that constituents know what services and facilities to expect and demand from their barangay, municipality, city, or province. BARMM’s Ministries and offices will need to reorganize and restructure themselves to provide services at a regional level, complementing those of the local governments.

Gradual devolution

Under the code, BLGC ensures a gradual devolution of authority, ensuring a deliberate transfer of power and the development of technical and financial capabilities at the local government level. Furthermore, the Government of the Day can provide additional support in case of capacity limitations to ensure that all government services are available.

Equitable sharing of resources in the region

The code defines sharing schemes between the Bangsamoro government and LGUs, covering collections of national taxes and revenues from natural resource utilization in the region. These resources, combined with LGUs’ own collections from taxes, fees, and charges, will increase the financial capacity of local governments to execute their mandates and provide expected services and facilities.

Democratization and empowerment of local communities

Local government constituents are assured that they have the power of initiative, referendum, and recall. Vulnerable sectors are also guaranteed sectoral seats in the Sanggunian, subject to elections and not reserved for relatives of those in power. The code also grants Indigenous peoples or IPs seats in the barangay, municipality, city, and province, provided they constitute at least 10% of the population and do not occupy more than 50% of the seats in the Sanggunian.

Supervision, coordination, and cooperation between the Bangsamoro Government and local governments

The code outlines various aspects, including disqualifications for individuals running for elective local positions, restrictions on family members of incumbent local officials, sharing of revenues, appointing powers in LGUs, the exercise of disciplinary powers, representation in regional structures, specific bodies, and the devolution framework mentioned earlier, among other provisions.