Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Art of Local Legislation

Local Government Development Foundation
United States Information Service
International Union of Local Authorities

(Reprinted from The VMLP Supplement)

LEGISLATION is one of the most important functions of local governments, which is exercised by duly elected members of the local councils. One good and comprehensive way of looking at legislation in its entirely, is to perceive it tri-dimensionally.

One dimension is the LAW referring to edicts, enactments and decrees which are formulated by the local councils and which are instruments of public governance. These laws are important in ordering society and in the governance of human transactions. The other dimension is the LAW MAKING or process of legislation. This refers to the dynamics of how law is formulated, its forms, i.e., ordinance or resolutions and the substance, the content or subject matter areas of legislation including the administrative and technical tools that are necessary in pursuing Law Making more effectively.

The third dimension is the LAW MAKER. This refers to the legislative actors, their political and social backgrounds, the private and public motivations of Law Makers as well as the necessary skills important in effective legislations. Anticipating the necessary laws and policies through predictive legislation is one of the good and critical skills that should be well developed.

This multi-dimensional view is likewise an important consideration to bear in mind because laws are the by products of a complex mixture of variables. Understanding these complexities in the legislative and process should be the concern of all those who are making laws as well as those who are providing constructive assistance in the legislative process.

THE LAW

The law, whether the Constitution or a statute or local laws and ordinances, is an instrument of public governance. Its functions are not only to establish and maintain order, which will enable man to live in a society peacefully, but also to provide the machinery of government and, through its public functionaries, make the wheels of machinery move in an orderly manner.

1. Law of Governance

The law on local governance includes:

(a) The provisions on local government in the Constitution (Article X);
(b) The Local Government Code of 1991 (Republic Act No. 7160);
(c) The Administrative Code of 1987 (Executive Order No 292, as amended); and
(d) Other statutes, like the Omnibus Election Code, etc., rules and regulations adopted pursuant to law, and doctrines or precedents.

These are other statutes, rules and regulations and legal precedents, knowledge of which is necessary in local governance, may be extremely difficult to find. On the other hand, there may be areas or fields in the ever growing knowledge of man to and complexity of human life which are still untouched by law or legislation.

2. Growing Role of LGUs

The Constitution and the Local Government Code of 1991 have placed stress on local autonomy in governance. With the provisions on devolution and decentralization, local governments are finding themselves performing or discharging functions and responsibilities heretofore performed and discharged by the national government from purely administrative point of view to regulatory function; other laws reaching practically every aspect of human activity which only a minimum degree of supervision coming from or with interference on the part of the executive department is now the state of many local governments.

3. Local Law Necessity

The growing complexities of human settlements require the enactment of local laws or ordinances which are necessary not only in the preservation of life but more importantly, of survival and sustained development. Local governments are part and parcel of a growing or changing economic and public administration environment. Local authorities have to adjust with the changes consistent with the requirements and the influence of science and technology as local authorities cross the threshold of the twenty first century.

4. New Frontiers of Ordinance Making

There are new frontiers of Law Making which local authorities are facing increasingly day to day. Environmental problems, i.e., deforestation, water management, pollution control, management of coastal waters and the like are some of these new concerns of local authorities in the years ahead.

LAW MAKING

Local legislative power is enthroned in the sanggunian of the province, the city, the municipality or the barangay. The sanggunian is composed of members elected by the voters at large or by individual members or group or sectors they represent, like women, workers or youth. Its acts assume the shape and form of ordinance, resolution or order.

1. Rules on Ordinance Making

In so enacting an ordinance or adopting a resolution, the sanggunian observes certain rules of procedures which provide for (1) organization of the sanggunian, electing the officers and creating standing committees, such as on appropriation, women, family, etc.; (2) order and calendar of business for each session; (3) legislative process; (4) parliamentary procedures; and (5) discipline of members for disorderly behavior, etc.

2. Disclosure of Interest

In addition, the members make a full disclosure of financial and business interest and fix the day, time and place of regular sessions which shall be once a week for the sangguniang panlalawigan, panlungsod and bayan and twice a month for the sangguniang barangay. When public interest so demands, the local chief executive or majority of members of the sanggunian, may call special sessions.

3. Process of Local Legislation

Briefly, in a session, whether regular or special, a quorum consisting of a majority of all members is determined in order to transact business. If so required, a public hearing is conducted. The ordinance enacted is presented to the local chief executives who either approves or disapproves it. If he vetoes the ordinance either because it is ultra vires or prejudicial to the public welfare, the sanggunian may by a two-thirds vote override the veto. The approved ordinance is forwarded to higher sanggunian or public authority for review and, if found consistent with law and existing ordinance, it is published in a newspaper or posted in conspicuous places.

4. Requirements of Law Making

However, the task of law making at the local level requires not only the skills of a parliamentarian but also expertise or technical knowledge on the subject ordinance. Necessarily, this involves, among other things:

Popular Consultant. Although the Local Government Code requires conduct public hearing only on tax ordinances or measures, non compliance with which would be fatal, it would be sound practice to consult local inhabitants in every proposed ordinance. If adopted, others might not find it necessary to exercise their powers of local initiatives referendum.
Establishment of Information Management System. This will provide the data needed or necessary in the consideration of proposed ordinance or resolutions, existing parliamentary laws, ordinances and resolutions together with this is the establishment of legislative library which will contain references, material and books on legislations.
Technical staff. Needless to state, the Office of the Secretary of the Sanggunian or that of the individual local legislator needs a competent, if not highly trained staff; for local law making has become a complicated process, requiring the need for experiences and knowledge on the matter, without which could mean loss of precious time and effort, even leading to waste.

5. Other Preconditions to effective Legislation

There are other preconditions to effective law making besides establishing computerized information system, organizing a highly competent technical staff. Activities and practices like legislative tracking, administrative codification and predictive legislations are just but few of the areas of law making that are emerging in the Philippine local legislative environment.

LAW MAKER

1. Functions of a Legislator

The local legislator is a member of the sanggunian, a deliberate body in which the power to enact ordinance or adopt resolution is vested. He is elected either by the registered voters at large or by the members of the group whom he represents, like the women, workers of youth. His principal duty or function is to propose measures for adoption and participate in the rule making process.


The sanggunian may legislate on any matter within the scope of its powers. It may regulate the exercise of liberty or use of property, impose or levy taxes, fees or charges, or acquire coercively private property upon payment or just compensation. Its acts assume the shape and form or ordinance, resolutions or order which are enforceable upon persons or things within the territorial boundaries of the local government.

2. Motivations

In enacting the ordinance or adopting a resolution, the sanggunian may act on what it perceives to be the common good. But in the case of the individual member, such may not necessarily be so; for, he is or be a member of a political party, civic or social club; engaged in certain work, trade or businessmen or a member of particular sect, cult or religion. Otherwise put; he has certain interests to protect, principles to uphold, or election campaign promises to keep, which may be at variance with the general welfare.

Enactment of ordinance is or may be induced by the stimuli to which the local legislator or member of the sanggunian is exposed. It may be a touching event, dissatisfaction over the existing order, a belief in something, or even a desire for vengeance. But whatever it is or may be enactment of ordinance or adoption of resolution requires some degree of skills not only in the art of legislation, particularly in expression, but also in perception, particularly in expression, but also in perception or objects thereof.

3. Predictive Legislation

The local legislator should be perceptive enough, peering beyond the existing order of things, even towards the future. He must have the sense of skill to predict or foretell certain occurrence or phenomenon calling for remedial, even progressive legislation. He should be able to discern meaning in the growth of population, the impact of a new technology, the meaning of a flight of birds, the drying of rivers and significance in the change of political thought or leadership, grievance of workers, or protest of students manifested in rallies or demonstrations against local authorities in their community.

It is difficult to put in proper forum the conflicting interest or differences of opinion of ordinance designed to achieve certain public ends or purposes. Here, the knowledge or training and even the interest which the local legislator represents come into play; for, how and able he uses these, striking at or maintaining a balance among varied interests, depends the enactment of wise and meaningful legislation.

AREAS OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION WHICH ARE SUBJECT TO POTENTIAL LEGISLATIVE ACTION

Increase population and its legislative impact.
Greater revenue base and service delivery requirements.
Limited access to urban land and land classification.
Environmental measures like water use and sanitation, air and river pollution control.
City traffic management and pollution problems.
Health and sanitation measures specifically coastal zone mgt.
Solid waste disposal management.
Tourism promotion and control.
Promotion of local investment: BOT, licensing measures, etc.
Policy formulation on squatting.
Physical plans and zoning regulation.
Control of land source pollution.
Control of streets digging.
Soil pollution and agricultural run off
Regulating delivery of gasoline to gasoline stations.
Ordinance affecting the general supervision and discipline of firemen and police, etc.
Urban greening requirements of urban centers.
Parking and vehicular movement control.
Maintenance of community peace and order.
Obligation of citizens on street cleanliness and sewage maintenance.
Licensing of tourist agencies.
Monitoring of hotel and tourism facilities
Inter-city services relationship
And other necessary measures that will allow local authorities to govern effectively and efficiently in an increasing environment of dwindling resources complicated societal system.


NEW FRONTIERS IN LOCAL ORDINANCE MAKING AND IN THE FORMULATION OF LOCAL LAWS
TRADITIONAL CONCERNS

Service delivery
Potable Water Management
Public Housing
General local government administration and community empowerment
Revenue Generation and Resource

B. NEW FRONTIERS

Law of the Sea Implication to Local Governance
Management of Coastal Waters
Marine Resources Management/Environmental Watch
Inter Local Economic Ventures/ Built, Operate and Transfer/ Privatization
Hi-Tech and Local Government Admin.

PROCESS OF LEGISLATION:
A POPULIST APPROACH

AGENDA SETTING IDENTIFICATION OF NEEDS AND PROBLEMS
Local Government Council
Citizens Initiative
Constituency Meetings
Independent Research

PRIORITIZATION OF GOALS:
PROCESSING OF NEEDS AND PROBLEMS
Consultations
Social Research: Surveys & Interviews
Using Technical Expertise

AGENDA TRANSLATION:
DETERMINATION OF LEGISLATIVE INTERVENTION
Resolutions
Ordinances
Oversight of Executive Agencies

D. AGENDA ACTION: FORMULATION OF AN ORDINANCE
1. Legislative History
2. Review of Related Researches/ Studies
3. Liaising with the Executive
4. Multi Sectoral Consultation

E. INTRODUCTION AND PROMOTION OF AN ORDINANCE
1. Coalition-Building
2. Information Dissemination
3. Local Advisory Committees
4. Briefing Book

F. MONITORING IMPLEMENTATION
1. Oversight of Local Executive Agencies
2. Citizen Watch
3. Feedback Mechanism

WHAT IS QUALITY LEGISLATION?

A. SUBSTANCES
-Must be relevant to the prevailing socio-economic and political situation
-Must be responsive to people’s needs and demands
-Must be implementable and practicable
- Must be fair and just

B. FORM (The ABC’s of Bill/Ordinance Drafting)
-ACCURACY: must be expressed in concise, simple, easily, understood language.
-BREVITY: A good piece of legislation presents its essence in compact, tightly knit
form.
-CLARITY: The provisions should be unambiguous and must allow a single interpretation only.

C. LEGALITY
- Must not violate the Constitution or any existing jurisprudence on constitutional law.
- Must not cover an existing statute on the same object.
- Must not contravene existing national legislation

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO PRODUCE QUALITY LEGISLATION?

COMPONENTS OF INSTITUTIONAL EFFICIENCY

A. COMPETENT TECHNICAL STAFF IN LEGISLATOR’S OFFICE
-Agenda setting
-Independence Research
- Consultation with Constituency
- Networking and Coalition Building

PROFESSIONAL LEGISLATIVE SUPPORT SERVICES
REFERENCE & RESEARCH SYSTEM:
Will cover ordinances/ resolution drafting, counseling and research services including the maintenance of a useful library.

- PLENARY AFFAIRS SYSTEM: Includes legislative calendaring, indexing and monitoring of ordinances and resolutions; transcription; keeping of journal of proceeding; and information dissemination.

-COMMITTEE SYSTEM: Refers to technical and administrative support services to committees to enable them to do their tasks efficiency, These include:
-Determination whether the bill was referred to the appropriate committee.
-Recording and transcription of minutes of committee meetings, hearings, inquiries, and other conferences.
-Preparation of committee reports.
-Archival of transcripts of committee meeting proceeding and/ or papers related to completed business.
-Processing of committee correspondence; and
-Publication of information and communication materials.

HOW TO ACHIEVE INSTITUTIONAL EFFICIENCY

ORGANIZATIONAL DEVELOMENT

-Development and Review of Goals & Objectives Every Year.
-Critical evaluation of organizational structure each year to ensure that it best meets organizational needs.
-setting up performance objectives
-Commitment to organizational development through the use of staff workshops and the encouragement of staff development.

HUMAN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT (FOR BOTH LEGISLATORS AND STAFFERS)

-Skills building in legislative research, drafting and ordinances, legislative writing, constituently servicing, etc.
-Information/orientation on legislative structures & processes, parliamentary rules and procedures and committee system, the budget process, etc.
-Exposure to comparable legislative systems through observation visits.

BUILDING AN INFORMATION SYSTEM

-Internal and External Information Network: Internal refers to the province generation and management of its own information resources while external relates to the establishment of an inter provincial or regional information network where they can share surveys and statistical data in spreadsheet format, research reports, policy documents, and researchers currently underway.

BROADENING THE BASE OF POPULAR PARTICIPATION IN THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS
-Provide adequate and reliable information on legislative development
-Regular consultation w/community orgs
-Move Towards Transformational Politics.

SOME GUIDING PRINCIPLES ON PREDICTIVE LEGISLATION OR MODELLING

1. The present is the by product of the past
2. The future is shaped by the present
3. The future, if it cannot be controlled, at least will be influenced
4. Scientifically based predictions to improve the knowledge of the future can provide acceptable guidelines for planning decisions
5. Predictions and forecasting are tools in attaining informed judgment rather than some types of prophesy subject to error.

SPECIFIC CHARACTERISTICS OF AN EFFECTIVE LOCAL COUNCIL

1. The council members recognize the critical role of management in the legislative process (establishing and MIS, effective agenda making, legislative computerization, ordinance inventory)
2. The council is back staffed by an efficient and competent technical committee/ staff.
3. The council is predictive in outlook. It has the capability to formulate anticipatory policies and legislative measures.
4. Council leadership and council IRR allow the internalization of the public accountability among its members including even the modification of Sanggunian officials behavior in support of constructive legislation.
5. The council is tracking their own legislation to determine whether these are responding to specific problems in their own environment.
6. The council has the capability to negotiate effectively in a conflict situation with the local bureaucracy or with external third parties.

MINIMUM CHARACTERISTICS OF THOSE WHO SHOULD BE IN PUBLIC SERVICE:

1. Wide intellectual horizon
2. Power of analysis
3. Resolute or firm
4. Fair sense of justice
5. Common sense

EVOLVING THE THIRD GENERATION LEGISLATORS: ENTER THE 21ST CENTURY

FIRST GENERATION LEGISLATORS

Characteristics:

1. Provincial in Thinking
2. Limited vision of what is the future of his municipality
3. Reactive acts only for Damage Control Purposes
4. Limited interpretation of the notion of public accountability vis-à-vis as effective legislators, non-trainable
5. Laissez Faire role in legislative duties

SECOND GENERATION LEGISLATORS

Characteristics:

1. Proactive in Legislative Planning
2. Appreciates the pre-conditions for qualitative legislations
3. Still-trainable
4. Has greater vision of his town than the 1st generation
5. Exhibits characteristics of public accountability

THIRD GENERATION LEGISLATION

Characteristics:

1. Can think globally but act locally
2. Very predictive in outlook
3. Exhibits high public accountability
4. Very high visions of his town’s future than the 1st generation
5. Imbibes high tech orientation as tools in solving old traditional problems in local governance.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Legislative agenda workshop held

The Vice Mayors League of the Philippines Pangasinan Chapter recently held its Provincial Legislative Agenda Workshop at the Inn Asia Hotel and Restaurant in Dagupan City.

Vice Mayor Alvin Fernandez, VMLP president, said that the workshop was aimed at familiarizing Pangasinan vice mayors with the provincial government’s legislative agenda and enable them to pass resolutions consistent to it.

Transportation and Communication Assistant Secretary Antonio Villar Jr. was the guest of honor and speaker.

Immigration Commissioner Alipio Fernandez Jr. was also present during the activity, where he delivered an inspirational message.

For his part, Vice Gov. Oscar Lambino shared his experience as presiding officer of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan and cited provincial legislations in support to the provincial government’s legislative agenda.

The activity was part of a series of VMLP seminars and workshops aimed at updating its members on the latest legislative trends and in promoting camaraderie within the VMLP.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

A night of fun and teamwork

It was a night of fun. As they gathered after the opening dinner of the Provincial Legislative Agenda Workshop, the vice mayors were suddenly children again – playing parlor games like they have never played before.

Game master Ryan Ravanzo of the Dagupan Jaycees Inc., who had designed the parlor games, was himself surprised at the show of cooperation of the vice mayors, who gamely followed his instructions.

“They were very enthusiastic and participative,” Ravanzo said.

One of the games involved team effort and coordination. With about six to seven members to a team, the vice mayors huffed and puffed as they moved as a group to win the race. There was laughter. There was yelling and shouting.

“We are doing these games not just for fun but as part of our team building effort,” said Vice Mayor Alvin Fernandez, president of the Vice Mayors League of the Philippines.

And a team building it was. Through the games, every vice mayor realized that he or she is a team player, who must know his or her role, accept it, and do his or her best to move the community forward.

After the morning session, where Transportation and Communication Assistant Secretary Antonio Villar Jr., Immigration Commissioner Alipio Fernandez Jr. and Vice Gov. Oscar Lambino were guests, everyone prepared for another team-building activity: appearing in the television comedy show Wazzup Wazzup.

The shoot, as has determined by the show’s segment director, was to take place during the street party that followed the Kalutan ed Dalan of the Bangus Festival.

In the segment, Vice Mayor Fernandez would be the reporter and each vice mayor had their lines to deliver. The rehearsal was fun. And everyone enjoyed it.

When the Kalutan was about to formally begin, the vice mayors were ferried to the site where the ceremonial lighting would be held. There, they had short interaction with Speaker Jose de Venecia, Japanese Ambassador Ryuichiro Yamazaki , US deputy consul Jennifer Vantrump, and other officials.

When the first grill was finally lighted, the vice mayors boarded different vehicles and joined the motorcade up to the end of the two-kilometer grill. They then joined a cocktail at the Dagupan City Hall.

During the Kalutan, each of the vice mayor that participated had his own grill. Among the organizations that participated in the Kalutan, it was only VMLP Pangasinan Chapter that had 20 grills.

During the shoot of Wazzup segment, it was no sweat – all the vice mayors who had roles in the segment performed well.

“At the VMLP, we enjoy being members of the league while enhancing our legislative capabilities,” Vice Mayor Fernandez said.