Mandanas-Garcia SC ruling, a “preview” of federalism in the Philippines – governance think tank

June 30, 2021

The implementation of the Supreme Court (SC) ruling on Mandanas and Garcia petitions starting next year will serve as a preview to what federalism could be if and when it is adopted in the country.

According to Professor Shermon Cruz, the Vice President of the Philippine Futures Thinking Society, a professional organization advocating for futures thinking through impact foresight education and advocacy, the implications of the ruling in giving local government units (LGUs) more power to govern autonomously is “simulating the possibility” to the shift, without having to change the system of government under the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

“If you try to frame it, this is a preview to federalism. It is giving you some sort of a face to be ready, in the event that we decide as a country to shift to a federal system,” he said during the 'Futures of Philippine Cities Within the Context of Mandanas Ruling’ webinar recently. The activity is part of the month-long 'Fiesta of ImagiNation' series organized by the Department of the Interior and Local Government's (DILG’s) Center for Local and Constitutional Reform (CLCR).

The webinar identified the possible scenarios that may occur in dealing with various policy decisions in the implementation of the Mandanas-Garcia SC ruling and discussed the future for local governance across the different levels of government.

In his talk, Cruz noted that the ruling should be tackled through an “anticipatory governance systems” lens to explore the “multiple futures” that could occur following the Mandanas ruling’s implementation. He emphasized that an “innovative” strategy that is “meaningful for all people” should be utilized in the transition to devolution.

He called upon stakeholders to ask, “How will the future of local government or Philippine cities, in the context of [the] Mandanas ruling, look like? What is the preferred story? What is our preferred news headline?”

Intergovernmental relations

Meanwhile, Rupak Chattopadhyay, the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Forum of Federations said that intergovernmental relation mechanisms and processes will be important to keep the Philippine government running smoothly and without friction in the context of the Mandanas-Garcia implementation.

The Forum of Federations is an international governance organization founded by Canada and funded by nine other partner governments – Australia, Brazil, Ethiopia, Germany, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Switzerland. It is a learning network concerned with promoting intergovernmental learning on governance challenges in multi-level democracies.

“In order for effective functioning, I think it’s very important that we need to level up robust mechanisms of intergovernmental relations. As the transition takes place, there will be periodic clashes between various orders of government, whether it’s over resources, administrative directives,” he said.

“There has to be some institutionalized way in which these differences can be reconciled, both horizontally, between local governments; but also vertically, between higher-order governments and local governments,” he added.

During the webinar, DILG Bureau of Local Government Development (BLGD) Director Anna Liza Bonagua also talked on the implications of the Mandanas ruling to LGUs.

She said that with the SC’s ruling, the national internal revenue taxes as the base for determining the just share of the LGUs provided in Section 284 of the Local Government Code of 1991 or Republic Act No. 7160 contravened the express provision in Article X, Section 6 of the 1987 Constitution, which explicitly mentions “national taxes” as the source of the just share of the LGUs.

Due to this, the 40% share of LGUs from national taxes will now be based on “all national taxes” and will not be limited to “national internal revenue taxes,” as stated in the Local Government Code.