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Opinion

Brightest fires

SEARCH FOR TRUTH - Ernesto P. Maceda Jr. - The Philippine Star

Manila has become a hotspot for crimes against drivers’ licenses. Local traffic enforcers have been empowered, by ordinance, to confiscate them for violations of the traffic code of Manila.

Can they do that? The Secretary of the Interior and Local Government has stonewalled. Per the Land Transportation Code of 1964, the power to confiscate is limited to enforcers deputized by the Land Transportation Office. The mayor of Manila, on the other hand, stands for local autonomy. The Local Government Code (LGC) of 1991 empowers LGUs to implement its own policies, including enforcing traffic laws.

Preemption battle. Preemption is a device in multi-scale governance contexts where the larger power is invoked to diminish the lesser power. In the field of intragovernmental relations, it is the authority of national law to replace/displace local law.

The analysis is easy if local action is expressly prohibited by law. For example, Section 133 of the LGC on the “Common Limitations on the Taxing Powers of Local Government Units. Unless otherwise provided herein, the exercise of the taxing powers of provinces, cities, municipalities and barangays shall not extend to the levy of the following: (a) Income tax, except when levied on banks and other financial institutions ... ;…”

There is no equivalent, express provision in this scenario. As Manila correctly points out, local legislative bodies do have the police power to enact their ordinances. This is actually a situation where there is concurrent regulatory authority in both national and local governments. Hence, the tension.

Case to case. Some quarters believe that any time there is a stand-off, automatically the national position is upheld. No doubt, this stems from the understanding of the creature of state doctrine – or that municipal corporations owe their origin to, and derive their powers and rights wholly from, the legislature that created them.

But this is fallacy because there are several ways to resolve or reconcile the issue. The powers can even co-exist. The levels of government either coordinate or decide to repeal their issuance or withdraw their position. When they cannot agree, only then are the courts forced to step in.

Section 62 of the Land Transportation Code may provide that: “No provincial board, city or municipal board or council shall enact or enforce any ordinance or resolution in conflict with the provisions of this Act.” What that conflict means, however, is something that has yet to be explained by the court.

The difficulty in just barging in and overturning local policies is captured in this passage: “The question of preemption is important as it displaces state or local laws that already occupy a field ... which reflect the preference of citizens as expressed through their elected legislators ... it is especially important that Congress be clear about its intent.”

Milestones. The 100-day milestone of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. is today.

Famously, PBBM shared the sentiment, looking back, that he has been putting out fires. Government service does leave you with that sense. With all the resources to put together a lean and mean administrative machinery, you would imagine that a successful outcome is predetermined at every instance. But there will always be a niggle, an issue, a trip up somewhere. You know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men.

There are challenges, however, that remain intransigent. The endemic corruption at all levels; bureaucratic apathy; a public that will never be satisfied; financial resources that are never enough; the shortage of men and women with the capacities to match the organizational need.

With the 100-day milestone behind the President, the honeymoon or learning curve, if any, is over. Time to get down to business. After all, a public servant is expected to do more than just the daily grind. He is expected to lead or, from a different perspective, to steer.

The discussion about the best and the brightest joining government is not an empty subject. While the President has his selection quota to fill, it behooves his administration to also develop the capacities of local leadership and sustain leadership innovations already initiated.

As commentary focuses on the first 100 days, the more important frontier is the next 2,092 days – we included the additional Feb. 29s of the two leap years. For every one of these 2,092 days, the President bears the heaviest burden. But he is vested, correspondingly, with super powers for the people. At day 2,093, he transforms back into the guy next door and becomes no different from you and me.

This, am sure, is the mindset on why he has surprised so many with his tireless work ethic.

2,311. In this context we look also at the next 2,311 days ... for myself. This Thursday, I received my appointment papers ad-interim for the position of Commissioner, Commission on Elections. I will have the chance to carry out the office until Fe. 2, 2029. That’s 2,311 days.

As a lifelong student of the Constitution, service in government has ever been the first principle. I was city councilor at 23. I am now 58, after serving in the legislative and judicial department with over 15 years in the public academe. This latest challenge at the Constitutional Commission on Elections caps a 35-year-long career. Being born to parents who made public welfare their guiding star, service has been the imperative in my life.

Hence, I am constrained to offer this column as my final contribution to the public debate. It would be “a puzzlement” for me to comment on government when I am now a part of that government.

I offer my undying thanks to all who honored my efforts at writing with their own efforts at reading what I had to say. It has been the greatest privilege of my life to share your Saturdays. Your patronage will sustain me with the courage and strength to continue the search for truth in the challenges ahead.

LGC

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