Drilon says ‘big brothers’ in LGUs may lead to ‘overstepping of authority’

MANILA, Philippines — Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon raised fears that assigning Cabinet secretaries to Metro Manila cities and several other provinces to support their pandemic response could lead to the overstepping of authority.

In a statement Friday, Drilon reminded Cabinet members tasked to act as “big brothers” to the local government units (LGUs) of the constitutional principles of local and fiscal autonomy.

“What we want to prevent here is overstepping of authority. There is a thin line that separates supervision and control. It is always a subject of overreach by the national government,” he said.

“We cannot take away some powers or freedom in the name of war against COVID-19. The LGUs should be allowed to perform its functions with full autonomy,” he added.

National Task Force on COVID-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. earlier said the Cabinet members assigned will act as “big brothers” and “big sisters” and harmonize the policies being implemented.

Drilon noted that the term “big brother” was coined by author George Orwell in his 1949 fiction novel titled “1984,” which refers to the supreme authority in a totalitarian society.

“Is the ‘Big Brother is watching us’ the new normal?” he said, stressing that the Constitution vests the President with the power of supervision, and not control, over LGUs.

The senator, a former justice secretary, said that administrative law defines “supervision” as overseeing or the power or authority of an officer to see to it that subordinate officers perform their duties.

Meanwhile, “control” is defined as the power of an officer to alter, modify, nullify or set aside what a subordinate officer had done in the performance of his duties and to substitute the judgment of the former for that of the latter.

Drilon further explained that in accordance with previous Supreme Court rulings, Cabinet secretaries, as agents of the President, do not have the same control of LGUs “as that exercised by them over bureaus and offices” within their jurisdiction under the Revised Administrative Code.

“What they (LGUs) need is the full and timely support from the government so they can respond to the pandemic,” he said.

“Some LGUs, such as Pasig and Marikina, showed they can do that and I do not think they need a ‘Big Brother’ from the government to show them the best way to respond to the crisis(It might only slow the decision-making process,” he added.

Metro Manila and other provinces with high COVID-19 cases were reverted to the modified enhanced community quarantine until August 18.

As of August 13, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Philippines has reached 147,526. Of the number, 70,387 have recovered while 2,426 have succumbed to the disease. [ac]

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