Urban Planning: Utopia?

Utopia is a word coined by Sir Thomas More in 1516 as an imaginary island enjoying perfection in law, politics, etc. It is also considered as an ideal place or state or any visionary system of political or social perfection.

This entry is one of my essays submitted to the University of the Philippines School of Urban and Regional Planning (UP SURP) in 2014 when I was still a student taking my post-graduate education. I thought it would be interesting and informative to share this essay.

Utopia in the context of Urban Planning

Utopia is a word coined by Sir Thomas More in 1516 as an imaginary island enjoying perfection in law, politics, etc. It is also considered as an ideal place or state or any visionary system of political or social perfection (Dictionary.com). Utopia is based on the imagination and discontentment of Moore to the present situation. Thus, several people crafted and designed an ideal place (utopia) that later became popular and the basis of effective urban planning.

Ebenezer Howard (1898) introduced the Garden City. It is a settlement designed with the central business district (CBD) in the middle of the city and its outer rings composed of greenbelt and residential areas, respectively. The center is accessible with road networks and railways along its periphery. The concept is a combination of town (urban) and country (rural) perceived advantages.

Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City

Jane Jacobs (1961) on the other hand was critical of the Garden City idea due to its insensitive planned development. She put emphasis on the importance of people looking after each other in one’s neighborhood and their important role in planning.

Daniel Burnham (1890s) on the other hand, focused on creating big plans. He emphasized orderliness and harmony of form usually on a grand scale. Burnham is famous for his quote to wit:

“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably will themselves not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will not die.” “Make no little plans. They have no Magic to stir Men’s blood.”

Based on Howard, Jacobs, and Burnham; it is easy to conclude that there is no definite definition, design or concept of a Utopia. It is based on the actual needs and preference of the people, the resources available, and the political will of leaders. Therefore, the concept of Utopia is different from person to person.

My Personal Utopia

My definition of Utopia comes close to my definition of my “home”. A home is where I feel comfortable, happy, satisfied, safe, and a place to enjoy the company of my loved ones. It includes my immediate family, neighborhood and community. It is a place where I am free to develop and cultivate. It is a place where I am protected from external threats. It is more of my emotional feeling than the physical building itself. My home (my utopia) fulfills and satisfies my needs and provides tranquility. With this in mind, allow me to explore my perceived needs in different timelines so that I may understand and appreciate my utopia as an individual before I try to recommend a possible utopia for the city or country.

Twenty five years ago, I would have imagined my utopia as a place where I can be with my friends / classmates / family. A place where we can have fun either swimming in an ocean or a clean river or enjoying a game of basketball in a covered court. I am thinking more of a suburb with complete facilities and friendly neighbors. I could have also wished then for a near high quality school (University) to learn and explore both my strengths and weaknesses in the academic field and be involved in extracurricular activities.

At present, my priority is to establish a good future for my 3 kids. I want an unpolluted and safe environment that is free from criminality. I want good schools for my kids with good and available scholarship programs. I want to participate in community development. I want to be involved in how the government decides on things that will affect my family’s well-being. I want to have access to quality basic social services. I want to have a good source of livelihood to support the needs of my family and prepare for our future needs.  I want to raise well-rounded smart kids. My utopia at present is more of a mixed use site with access to schools (preferably a university town), source of livelihood, and safe residential areas. I have no issue with mixed use buildings in a central business district (CBD) but I prefer to live in a suburb with good access to the CBD (thru roads and efficient public transport system).

Fifteen years from now, my kids will have already finished their college education and probably starting to establish their individual lives. I am imagining myself spending more quality time with my spouse with a more than modest source of livelihood and busy in volunteer work. It will surely be the period of giving back to the community and playing a more active role in its management and development. I might run for public office (who knows?) or travel and enjoy other places in the world. Still I look forward to a safe and secured environment with friendly neighbors. I may want to be near/or have access to health institutions and the houses of my kids.

Twenty five years from now, I believe I will already be a grandfather with a very different set of needs. I still want to live in a safe environment that is near my kids and grandchildren’s houses. I want to have another house closer to nature (beach, farm, etc.). I may also need to be near hospitals. I hope (that’s the plan) that I have prepared and accumulated enough resources to provide for my needs in my ageing days. I may have an advocacy or may have already written and published books on different topics of interest. I still want to travel and enjoy the beautiful things in other parts of the planet. I sure would want to be still adept in that time’s latest technology (that would be exciting!).

My Utopia at the City/Country Level

Just like me, I believe every person envisions his/her own form of utopia and this vision changes as his/her need changes. However, as a city planner, I cannot exclude certain segments and must try to bring a desired utopia for all age groups. Thus, I would like to describe my idea of a Philippine Utopia both from a user’s and planner’s perspective. My hypothetical utopia is a combination of Howard’s and Jacob’s basic principles with the grandeur of Burnham. I would like to describe my utopia per sector with the belief that a clear and detailed plan turns into clear objectives which facilitate the increase of chances of its achievement. The said sectors are economic, social, technological, political/legal, environmental, and physical.

Economic activities in the utopia involve a good combination of agriculture, manufacturing, and services activities. There are ample job opportunities for both blue collar and white collar types of work. Big and small businesses are both thriving and are working together in providing quality jobs and goods to the people.  Due to the stronger financial position of the constituents, they have the option to pay for private goods or avail of public services / goods from the government.

Social services in the utopia include access to quality education (public and private) and free or subsidized health and education services to the lower income groups. Everybody should have access to education and health services. There are ample policemen and community personnel maintaining and securing the peace and order situation of the city. People are aware, trained, and ready for natural and man-made disasters. There are also recreation and sports programs for all segments in society.

In this utopia, all sectors are connected to the internet. A person may choose to conduct business, pay bills, pursue and study a full course (university), work, etc. in the comfort of his/her own home with the latest technology or go out and conduct these things personally. Information is accessible to all at minimal or no cost to the people.

People in this utopia have a say on government policies that affect their lives. Government is democratic with active people taking part in good governance. Government is willing to listen to its constituents and proactively include them in the planning, monitoring, and evaluation of public projects. Government also conducts capacity building for the civil society organizations in order for them to be skilled and knowledgeable partners in developmental projects of this utopia. A citizen can also transact business with the government through technology in the comfort of their homes.

This utopia observes sustainable development policies and practices. There are areas reserved for nature and adequate clean water for everybody. This utopia has responsible citizens that practice good stewardship of the environment. There are bike lanes, electric (solar) cars, electric (solar) trains, and power comes from renewable energy sources. There are policies crafted with and supported by the people in terms of solid waste management, wastage, sanitation, etc.

In terms of physical / infrastructure manifestations of the stated sectoral objectives of this utopia, I imagined it initially with Howard’s design but with some modifications. Howard’s design focused on one (1) CBD whereas my utopia is composed of several CBD’s (multi-nodal). Each node/CBD is separated by ample green space and is connected to good road networks and accessible via railway operated by renewable energy. Each node has its own suburb as defined in the American societies (so people have options). The node itself is composed of mixed use green buildings (residential, commercial and institutional). The development of the node is vertical to save space and with ample parks and other multi-purpose spaces.  Though there may be specialization (manufacturing, services, education, tourism, etc.) per node, it is expected that each node can survive without depending on the other nodes (economic activity, social services, renewable energy, food, solid waste management, etc.). However, inter-nodal arrangements should be carefully pursued and implemented in tackling sensitive issues that may affect the respective territorial boundaries of adjacent local communities (i.e. pollution, watershed, peace and order, etc.).

My preferred utopia expands the options of the people in a way that empowers them on how to choose the way they live. They may opt to live outside the CBD (suburbs) or in a mixed-use building in the CBD. Since they have a good source of livelihood they can choose to pay for private services/goods or avail of government public services. The government listens and involves the people in pursuing new policies and development. Religious affiliations are respected. All segments of the society are considered in the development. People are the users, the owners, and the planners in the city development. The government and other private technical people only guide and basically act only as implementors of the goals and needs of the people.

I assume that most developments are government initiated. In this new age, governments are mostly democratic in a sense that it is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. With that in mind, development or specifically urban planning and development should also be people centered. A project implemented without the people’s support may fall short to its intended use or worse may become a white elephant project. Technical people tend to put the wishes of the people last, they assume they know what the people wanted already, or worse they do not believe that the people know what they want. The era where leaders establish pyramids and other edifices depending on their whims has ended thousands of years ago. It is only ethical and moral to ask people their priorities and preferences in pursuing development since they are the owner, the users, and the ones paying for it with their taxes.

Though, it may be difficult to synergize the different views on utopias of all the people, one needs skills in squeezing out their common or general sentiments. With my earlier analysis of my needs, this includes having a safe and secured community with access to basic services (basic).

In closing, I appreciate Howard’s intention of a balanced living, Jacob’s emphasis on the important roles of people in urban development, and Burnham intention of grand plans. This is my utopia and hopefully the desired utopia of my country.

For me, a home is what you make it. I believe that you choose where you want to live first and make it your home. An urban plan or an urban area is not a utopia or a home unless people are empowered to get involved and make it their own.

References:

Howard, Sir Ebenezer George, Garden Cities of To-morrow – 1902, Kessinger Publishing, LLC (June 29, 2008)

Jacobs, Jane, The Death and Life of Great American Cities – 1961,Vintage; Reissue edition (December 1, 1992)

Inspired by the Lecture Slide Presentation of Prof. Jed Gomez on “Utopias, Dystopias, and Everything in Between” delivered on September 2, 2014 during the Plan 201 Class at the University of the Philippines School of Urban and Regional Planning

Meaning of “utopia” downloaded at http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/utopia in September 5, 2014

The Social City image downloaded at http://www.mediaarchitecture.at/architekturtheorie/garden_cities/content/the_social_city_1898.jpg in July 28, 2021

Mandanas-Garcia vs. Executive Secretary Case Digest

Mandanas, et. al vs. Executive Secretary et. al
G.R. No. 199802, July 03, 2018
Garcia vs. Executive Secretary et. al
G.R. No. 208488, July 3, 2018
En Banc
Ponente; BERSAMIN, J.:

Facts:

Mandanas et. al and Garcia both filed a case against Executive Secretary et. al challenging the manner in which the just share in the national taxes of the local government units (LGUs) has been computed.

The 1987 Constitution continued to push towards decentralization of government and local autonomy. Republic Act 7160 also known as the Local Government Code of 1991 further strengthened the local autonomy and fiscal capability of Local Government Units (LGUs).

Local autonomy has two facets, the administrative and the fiscal. Fiscal autonomy means that local governments have the power to create their own sources of revenue in addition to their equitable share in the national taxes released by the National Government, as well as the power to allocate their resources in accordance with their own priorities. Such autonomy is as indispensable to the viability of the policy of decentralization as the other.

The Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) is the basis of the share of LGUs from the national taxes. The IRA is determined on the basis of the actual collections of the National Internal Revenue Taxes (NIRTs) as certified by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).

Below are details of the petitions of Mandanas, et. al and Garcia.

G.R. No. 199802 (Mandanas, et al.)G.R. No. 208488 (Congressman Enrique Garcia, Jr.)
a special civil action for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus assailing the manner the General Appropriations Act (GAA) for FY 2012 computed the IRA for the LGUsseeks the writ of mandamus to compel the respondents thereat to compute the just share of the LGUs on the basis of all national taxes
– allege herein that certain collections of NIRTs by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) – specifically: excise taxes, value added taxes (VATs) and documentary stamp taxes (DSTs) – have not been included in the base amounts for the computation of the IRA;
– that such taxes, albeit collected by the BOC, should form part of the base from which the IRA should be computed because they constituted NIRTs;
– that, consequently, the release of the additional amount of P60,750,000,000.00 to the LGUs as their IRA for FY 2012 should be ordered; and
– that for the same reason the LGUs should also be released their unpaid IRA for FY 1992 to FY 2011, inclusive, totaling P438,103,906,675.73.
– insists on a literal reading of Section 6, Article X of the 1987 Constitution.
– that the insertion by Congress of the words internal revenue in the phrase national taxes found in Section 284 of the LGC caused the diminution of the base for determining the just share of the LGUs, and should be declared unconstitutional;
– that, moreover, the exclusion of certain taxes and accounts pursuant to or in accordance with special laws was similarly constitutionally untenable;
– that the VATs and excise taxes collected by the BOC should be included in the computation of the IRA; and – that the respondents should compute the IRA on the basis of all national tax collections, and thereafter distribute any shortfall to the LGUs.
The cases were consolidated on October 22, 2013

In response to the petitions, the several respondents, represented by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), urged the dismissal of the petitions upon procedural and substantive considerations.

Below are the answers of the OSG.

Response of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG)
urged the dismissal of the petitions upon procedural and substantive considerations
Procedural considerationsSubstantive considerations
1. mandamus does not lie in order to achieve the reliefs sought because Congress may not be compelled to appropriate the sums allegedly illegally withheld for to do so will violate the doctrine of separation of powers; and,
2. mandamus does not also lie to compel the DBM to release the amounts to the LGUs because such disbursements will be contrary to the purposes specified in the GAA;
– that Garcia has no clear legal right to sustain his suit for mandamus;
– that the filing of Garcia’s suit violates the doctrine of hierarchy of courts; and
– that Garcia’s petition seeks declaratory relief but the Court cannot grant such relief in the exercise of its original jurisdiction.
– Article 284 of the LGC is consistent with the mandate of Section 6, Article X of the 1987 Constitution to the effect that the LGUs shall have a just share in the national taxes;
– that the determination of the just share is within the discretion of Congress; that the limitation under the LGC of the basis for the just share in the NIRTs was within the powers granted to Congress by the 1987 Constitution;
– that the LGUs have been receiving their just share in the national taxes based on the correct base amount;
– that Congress has the authority to exclude certain taxes from the base amount in computing the IRA;
– that there is a distinction between the VATs, excise taxes and DSTs collected by the BIR, on one hand, and the VATs, excise taxes and DSTs collected by the BOC, on the other, thereby warranting their different treatment; and
– that Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) Resolution No. 2003-02 dated September 4, 2003 has limited the base amount for the computation of the IRA to the “cash collections based on the BIR data as reconciled with the Bureau of Treasury;” and that the collection of such national taxes by the BOC should be excluded.

ISSUES

Issues
General Issue: Whether or not the exclusion of certain national taxes from the base amount for the computation of the just share of the LGUs in the national taxes is constitutional
I. Whether or not mandamus is the proper vehicle to assail the constitutionality of the relevant provisions of the GAA and the LGC;
II. Whether or not Section 284 of the LGC is unconstitutional for being repugnant to Section 6, Article X of the 1987 Constitution;
III. Whether or not the existing shares given to the LGUs by virtue of the GAA is consistent with the constitutional mandate to give LGUs a “just share” to national taxes following Article X, Section 6 of the 1987 Constitution;
IV. Whether or not the petitioners are entitled to the reliefs prayed for.

RULING / HELD

Ruling of the Court (Mandanas-Garcia Case)
1. Mandamus is an improper remedy– The writ of mandamus may not issue to compel an official to do anything that is not his duty to do, or that is his duty not to do, or to obtain for the petitioner anything to which he is not entitled by law.
– Congress cannot be compelled by writ of mandamus.
– The discretion of Congress thereon, being exclusive, is not subject to external direction; otherwise, the delicate balance underlying our system of government may be unduly disturbed
2. Municipal corporations and their relationship with Congress– Municipal governments are only agents of the national government.
– Municipal corporations owe their origin to, and derive their powers and rights wholly from the legislature.
– This basic relationship between the national legislature and the local government units has not been enfeebled by the new provisions in the Constitution strengthening the policy of local autonomy.
– The LGC provided a norm of interpretation in favor of the LGUs in its Section 5(a), to wit:  (a) Any provision on a power of a local government unit shall be liberally interpreted in its favor, and in case of doubt, any question thereon shall be resolved in favor of devolution of powers and of the local government unit. Any fair and reasonable doubt as to the existence of the power shall be interpreted in favor of the local government unit concerned; [Bold underscoring supplied for emphasis]
3. The extent of local autonomy in the Philippines– The 1987 Constitution limits Congress’ control over the LGUs by ordaining in Section 25 of its Article II that: “The State shall ensure the autonomy of local governments.”
– Certain limitations are and can be imposed by Congress in all the forms of decentralization, for local autonomy, whether as to power or as to administration, is not absolute. The LGUs remain to be the tenants of the will of Congress subject to the guarantees that the Constitution itself imposes.
4. Section 284 of the LGC deviates from the plain language of Section 6 of Article X of the 1987 Constitution– Section 6, Article X the 1987 Constitution textually commands the allocation to the LGUs of a just share in the national taxes
– Section 6, when parsed, embodies three mandates, namely: (1) the LGUs shall have a just share in the national taxes; (2) the just share shall be determined by law; and (3) the just share shall be automatically released to the LGUs.
– LGC Section 284. Allotment of Internal Revenue Taxes. – Local government units shall have a share in the national internal revenue taxes based on the collection of the third fiscal year preceding the current fiscal year
– Section 6 mentions national taxes as the source of the just share of the LGUs while Section 284 ordains that the share of the LGUs be taken from national internal revenue taxes instead.
– Garcia contends that Congress has exceeded its constitutional boundary by limiting to the NIRTs the base from which to compute the just share of the LGUs.
– The Court agree with Garcia’s contention.
– Section 284 has effectively deprived the LGUs from deriving their just share from other national taxes, like the customs duties.
– Strictly speaking, customs duties are also taxes because they are exactions whose proceeds become public funds.
– The exclusion of other national taxes like customs duties from the base for determining the just share of the LGUs contravened the express constitutional edict in Section 6, Article X the 1987 Constitution.
– To read Section 6 differently as requiring that the just share of LGUs in the national taxes shall be determined by law is tantamount to the unauthorized revision of the 1987 Constitution.
5. Congress can validly exclude taxes that will constitute the base amount for the computation of the IRA only if a Constitutional provision allows such exclusion– Section 284 does not authorize any exclusion or deduction from the collections of the NIRTs for purposes of the computation of the allocations to the LGUs.
– Anent the share of the affected LGUs in the proceeds of the sale and conversion of the former military bases pursuant to R.A. No. 7227, the exclusion is warranted for the reason that such proceeds do not come from a tax, fee or exaction imposed on the sale and conversion.
6. Entitlement to the reliefs sought– The petitioners’ prayer for the payment of the arrears of the LGUs’ just share on the theory that the computation of the base amount had been unconstitutional all along cannot be granted
– doctrine of operative fact
* recognizes the existence of the law or executive act prior to the determination of its unconstitutionality as an operative fact that produced consequences that cannot always be erased, ignored or disregarded. * nullifies the void law or executive act but sustains its effects. It provides an exception to the general rule that a void or unconstitutional law produces no effect
* applies only to cases where extraordinary circumstances exist, and only when the extraordinary circumstances have met the stringent conditions that will permit its application
* the effect is prospective
7. Automatic release of the LGUs’ just share in the National Taxes– Section 6, Article X of the 1987 Constitution commands that the just share of the LGUs in national taxes shall be automatically released to them.
– The term automatic connotes something mechanical, spontaneous and perfunctory
– The LGUs are not required to perform any act or thing in order to receive their just share in the national taxes
– Automatic release without need of appropriation
Decision
1. DECLARES the phrase “internal revenue” appearing in Section 284 of Republic Act No. 7160 (Local Government Code) UNCONSTITUTIONAL, and DELETES the phrase from Section 284.
2. ORDERS the SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF FINANCE; the SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF BUDGET AND MANAGEMENT; the COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE; the COMMISSIONER OF CUSTOMS; and the NATIONAL TREASURER to include ALL COLLECTIONS OF NATIONAL TAXES in the computation of the base of the just share of the Local Government Units according to the ratio provided in the now-modified Section 284 of Republic Act No. 7160 (Local Government Code) except those accruing to special purpose funds and special allotments for the utilization and development of the national wealth.
3. DECLARES that:
(a) The apportionment of the 25% of the franchise taxes collected from the Manila Jockey Club and Philippine Racing Club, Inc. – that is, five percent (5%) to the National Government; five percent (5%) to the host municipality or city; seven percent (7%) to the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office; six percent (6%) to the Anti-Tuberculosis Society; and two percent (2%) to the White Cross pursuant to Section 6 of Republic Act No. 6631 and Section 8 of Republic Act No. 6632 – is VALID;
(b) Section 8 and Section 12 of Republic Act No. 7227 are VALID; and, ACCORDINGLY, the proceeds from the sale of the former military bases converted to alienable lands thereunder are EXCLUDED from the computation of the national tax allocations of the Local Government Units; and
(c) Section 24(3) of Presidential Decree No. 1445, in relation to Section 284 of the National Internal Revenue Code, apportioning one-half of one percent (1/2 of 1%) of national tax collections as the auditing fee of the Commission on Audit is VALID;
4. DIRECTS the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs and their deputized collecting agents to certify all national tax collections, pursuant to Article 378 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of R.A. No. 7160
5. DISMISSES the claims of the Local Government Units for the settlement by the National Government of arrears in the just share on the ground that this decision shall have PROSPECTIVE APPLICATION
6. COMMANDS the AUTOMATIC RELEASE WITHOUT NEED OF FURTHER ACTION

SEPARATE / DISSENTING OPINIONS

Separate Opinion – Velasco, Jr., J.
Voted to partially grant the petitions
Concur with the following dispositions:
1. The phrase “internal revenue” appearing in Section 284 of RA 7160 is declared UNCONSTITUTIONAL and is hereby DELETED.
2. Respondents are hereby DIRECTED to include all forms of national tax collections, other than those accruing to special purpose funds and special allotments for the utilization and development of national wealth, in the subsequent computations for the base amount of just share the Local Government Units are entitled to.
3. In addition, the Court further DECLARES that:
a. The apportionment of specified incremental taxes is VALID and shall be observed;
b. Sections 8 and 12 of RA 7227 are hereby declared VALID. The proceeds from the sale of military bases converted to alienable lands thereunder are EXCLUDED from the computation of the national tax allocations of the Local Government Units since these are sales proceeds, not tax collections;           
c. The one-half of one percent (1/2%) of national tax collections as the auditing fee of the Commission on Audit under Section 24(3) of Presidential Decree No. 1445 shall not be deducted prior to the computation of the forty percent (40%) share of the Local Government Units in the national taxes; and
d. Other special purpose funds are likewise EXCLUDED from the computation of the national tax allotment base.
4. The Bureau of Internal Revenue and Bureau of Customs are hereby ORDERED to certify to the Department of Budget and Management all their collections and remittances of National Taxes;
5. PROSPECTIVE APPLICATION from finality of this decision in view of the operative fact doctrine. Denied petitioners’ claims of arrears from the national government for the unlawful exclusions from the base amount.
6. The national tax allotments of the Local Government Units shall AUTOMATICALLY and DIRECTLY be released, without need of any further action
Dissenting Opinion – Leonen, J.
Voted to Dismiss the Petitions
1. There was no unlawful neglect on the part of public respondents, particularly the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, in the computation of the internal revenue allotment. Moreover, the act being requested of them is not their ministerial duty; hence, mandamus does not lie and the Petitions must be dismissed.
2. The deductions to the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s collections made pursuant to special laws were proper.
3. The Court should exercise deference to the interpretation of Congress and of the President of what constitutes the “just share” of the local government units.
4. Congress has full discretion to determine the “just share” of the local government units, in which authority necessarily includes the power to fix the revenue base, or to define what are included in this base, and the rate for the computation of the internal revenue allotment. Absent any clear and unequivocal breach of the Constitution, this Court should proceed with restraint when a legislative act is challenged in deference to a co-equal branch of the Government.
5. The “automatic release” in Section 286 of the Local Government Code as “without need for a yearly appropriation” is contrary to the Constitution. A statute cannot amend the Constitutional requirement.
6. The release of the local government units’ share without an appropriation substantially amends the Constitution. It also gives local governments a level of fiscal autonomy not enjoyed even by constitutional bodies like the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman. It bypasses Congress as mandated by the Constitution. “Without appropriation” also substantially alters the relationship of the President to local governments, effectively diminishing, if not removing, supervision as mandated by the Constitution.
Separate Opinion – Caguioa, J.
Voted to Dismiss the Petitions
Submit that J. Leonen’s liberal approach should be upheld.
1. Posits that if any reasonable basis may be conceived which supports the statute, it will be upheld, and the challenger must negate all possible bases; that the courts are not concerned with the wisdom, justice, policy, or expediency of a statute; and that a liberal interpretation of the constitution in favor of the constitutionality of legislation should be adopted. Before a law is declared unconstitutional, there must be a clear and unequivocal showing that what the Constitution prohibits, the statute permits. In other words, laws shall not be declared invalid unless the conflict with the Constitution is clear beyond reasonable doubt.
2. Constitution gave Congress the absolute authority and discretion to determine the LGUs’ “just share” — which include both the classes of national taxes and the percentages thereof.
3. Appropriation is not a judicial function, Congress, which holds the power of the purse, is in the best position to determine the “just share” of the LGUs based on their needs and circumstances
4. Agree with the ponencia’s position that the operative fact doctrine should apply to this case. The doctrine nullifies the effects of an unconstitutional law or an executive act by recognizing that the existence of a statute prior to a determination of unconstitutionality is an operative fact and may have consequences that cannot always be ignored. Petitioners cannot claim deficiency IRA from previous fiscal years as these funds may have already been used for government projects, the undoing of which would not only be physically impossible but also impractical and burdensome for the Government.  
Dissenting Opinion – Reyes, Jr. J.
Voted to Dismiss the petitions
1. The national legislature is still the principal of the local government units, which cannot defy its will or modify or violate it. despite the shift towards local autonomy, the National Government, through Congress, retains control over LGUs—albeit, in a lesser degree.
2. The plain text of Section 6, Article X of the 1987 Constitution requires Congress to provide LGUs with a just share in the national taxes, which should be automatically released to them. Nowhere in this provision does the Constitution specify the taxes that should be included in the just share of LGUs. Neither does the Constitution mandate the inclusion of all national taxes in the computation of the IRA or in any other share granted to LGUs.
3. Congress has the authority to determine the exact percentage share of the LGUs, Congress may likewise determine the basis of this share and include some or all of the national taxes for a given period of time. Congress possesses the power of the purse.
4. The determination of Congress as to the base amount for the computation of the IRA is a policy question of policy best left to its wisdom. The Court may neither bind the hands of Congress nor supplant its wisdom.

Full Case Texts can be viewed at: https://www.chanrobles.com/cralaw/2018julydecisions.php?id=530

Planning a Walkable and Bicycle-Friendly City (Local Government Unit)

Imagine our parents, children, students, women, wheel-chair bound persons with disability (PWD), and the people of a city/municipality in general enjoying and safely using their sidewalks, walkways, and bicycle lanes in their neighborhood. Close your eyes and picture this – Students having fun walking or biking to schools or playgrounds, employees safely biking to work, people going to malls and markets in their bicycles, our senior citizens walking safely to parks, and persons in wheelchair greeting each other in an accessible and safe pedestrian space. As planners, what can we do to somehow come close to this ideal place?

The City Government of Santa Rosa formulated its Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan (PBMP). The aims of the PBMP is to improve safety and accessibility of other road users by strategically providing quality walkway and bikeway network spaces and infrastructure for the people in the City.

The City of Santa Rosa hired an expert consultant to assist in the formulation of the PBMP. The Mayor created a Technical Working Groups (TWG) composed of members from the government, private sectors, and non-government organizations to work together in the formulation of the master plan. The objective of the city in formulating the plan is to check if the PBMP is technically feasible, acceptable and sustainable in Santa Rosa.

The strategies identified in the plan are the identification and establishment of dedicated or segregated lanes, hybrid or shared lanes, and facilitating short cuts or secondary networks.

The study revealed that the PBMP is feasible, acceptable and sustainable to the city. National government policies are also aligned with the PBMP aims and objectives.

The PBMP is aligned with Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Memorandum Circular (MC) 2020-100 (July 17, 2020) Guidelines for the Establishment of a Network of Cycling Lanes and Walking Paths to Support People’s Mobility and the Department of Public Works and Highways Department Order No. 88 series of 2020 (September 29, 2020) Prescribing Guidelines on the Design of Bicycle Facilities along national Roads.

The plan also supports the achievement of the eleven (11) of the seventeen (17) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as follows:

a. Goal No. 1: End Poverty in all its forms everywhere.

Biking and walking are affordable and simple modes of transport enabling access to education, jobs, markets, and community activities. Biking and walking for some are the only affordable technical means of transport for people and goods thus lowering the expenses of the household.

b. Goal No. 2: End hunger, achieve food security, and improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

Biking and walking, in particular for the poor, help ensure access to food supplies, increasing their nutrition options and ensuring the sustainable transportation of food products.

c. Goal No. 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages.

Biking and walking generate healthy and non-air-polluting lifestyles.

d. Goal No. 5: Achieve Gender Equality and empower all women and girls.

Biking and walking encourage governments to provide safe spaces/access for women and girls to schools, markets, and jobs.

e. Goal No. 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

Biking and walking improve the energy efficiency of transport systems as it uses renewable human power in the most efficient way to move people and goods.

f. Goal No. 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all.

Biking and walking will open up a culture which will provide a very high potential for biking tourism and other healthy leisure activities.

g. Goal No. 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.

Biking and walking enable people to switch from the use of individual motorized transport to a combination of active mobility (walking and biking) and public transport. Biking and walking will make it easier for the government to build resilient infrastructure and sustainable transport systems for economic development and human well-being, with focus on affordable and equitable access for all.

h. Goal No. 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

Biking and walking are affordable, safe, non-polluting, healthy, and promote a sustainable economy. Biking promotes a sustainable transport system.

i. Goal No. 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

Biking and walking offer people the opportunity to move around in a sustainable way. Some goods can be delivered using bicycles. Possible increase in biking tourism will create more options for people to choose sustainable tourism.

j. Goal No. 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

Walking/biking facilities are strong symbols of decarbonizing transport and communities; it offers immediate climate action.

k. Goal No. 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.

Biking and walking advocacy may promote effective public, private and civil society partnerships.

As early as 2007, Mayor Arlene Arcillas together with the Rotary Club of Sta. Rosa and Toyota Autoparts Philippines, Inc. launched the “Road Safety Academy” which is the first in the Philippines. Its objective is to educate students, drivers, operators, homeowners, etc. on the importance of following traffic regulations through a series of traffic seminars/orientations. The PBMP is a document plan that promotes Road Safety of all road users.

The PBMP ensures that the responsible people of Santa Rosa have the infrastructure and policy support in terms of ensuring a safe and connected bicycle and pathway system in the City.

The identified strategies and initiatives in the Santa Rosa Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan addresses the Santa Rosa’s call to promulgate the use of bicycle and walking as an alternative forms of travel not only because of its health benefits, but also its effect on the environment such as environmental protection, and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions while connecting communities the natural way.

The City of Santa Rosa PBMP was approved and adopted by the City via Sangguniang Panlungsod Resolution No. 0025 on March 2, 2020. Mayor Danilo Fernandez (2016-2019) continued the objective of Mayor Arlene Arcillas (2007 – 2016) on making sure that all road users in the city (including pedestrians and cyclists) can safely access important public spaces such as roads and streets. Mayor Arlene Arcillas (2019 – present) is again the Mayor of the City. Through the strong leadership of the Mayor, the policies of the National Government, the commitment of the city to the SDGs, and the programs, projects, and activities identified in the PBMP; it will only be a matter of time to appreciate Santa Rosa as a walkable and bicycle-friendly LGU.

Bikelanes and green pedestrian spaces are now being incorporated in road projects. Pilot areas are identified for establishment of bikelanes. I can see that more people are using their bicycles in their daily activities such as going to work or the market and leisurely during weekends and holidays. A culture of people using alternative and sustainable modes of transport such as biking and walking is inevitable to develop in the City of Santa Rosa. The City should continue to be aggressive in providing accessible and safe spaces to match the demand/need of our bikers and pedestrians.

How walkable / bicycle-friendly is your city/municipality?

Related Topics:

Addressing Traffic Issues without Building New Roads (but through Urban Planning)

NYC and LA – A Tale of Two Cities – Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright

How to Formulate and Update the Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP)

One of the required plans from Local Government Units (LGUs) is the Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP). The CDP is a three to six year multi-sectoral plan of the LGU which has its Local Development Investment Program (LDIP) composed of various multi-year projects. The LDIP is the basis of the LGU’s Annual Investment Plan (AIP). AIP on the other hand is the basis of the annual budget. Programs, projects and activities not budgeted are seldom implemented. Hence, it is safe to say that projects in the CDP are likely to be budgeted and implemented and will greatly affect / benefit the people in the LGU. Thus, it is really important to LGUs to formulate a good CDP.

As a City Planner, formulating the CDP is both challenging and rewarding. All we need to know and do to formulate the CDP is available online. A complete and detailed guide is available on the Department of Interior and Local Government’s (DILG) website. It is downloadable in PDF form – Guide to CDP Preparation for LGU. The guide is so complete to the point that it is overwhelming even to a seasoned city planner. Hence, in this blog entry, I tried to (hopefully) simplify the steps and tweak the process. I hope that the changes I present will be practically useful for other LGU planners like me.

The DILG CDP guide is composed of 5 major steps as follows: Step 1 Organize and Mobilize the Planning Team; Step 2 Revisit Existing Plans and Review LGU Vision; Step 3 Prepare Ecological Profile and Structured List of PPAs; Step 4 Prepare the Local Development Investment Program (LDIP); and Step 5 Prepare Needed Implementation Instruments. 

It is my personal opinion that the said steps are ideal for LGUs that are formulating their CDPs for the first time. Its comprehensiveness will truly guide the LGU planner in formulating their first ever CDP. However, most LGUs already have their CDP and only need to update the plan to be relevant to changing needs and priorities of its leaders and constituents. Hence, I am introducing an 8-step Modified CDP Process based on the DILG CDP Guide.

8-Step Modified CDP Process based on the DILG CDP Guide

Instead of immediately starting with organizing and mobilizing the Planning Team, I started with Step 1 as Pre-Planning Activities – Prepare Draft Socio-Ecological and Physical Profile (SEPP). The reason is that it is mandated to the Provincial/City/Municipal Planning and Development Coordinators (P/C/MPDCs) to conduct continuing studies, researches, and training programs necessary to evolve plans and programs for implementation. These studies and researches become part of the LGUs SEPP. Thus, the P/C/MPDCs should not wait for the Executive Order (EO) of the Local Chief Executive (LCE) initiating the formulation of the CDP before they formulate the LGUs SEPP. SEPP formulation is Step 3 in the DILG CDP Guide while it is Step 1 in our Modified CDP Process.

Step 2 is Organize and Mobilize the Planning Team. In this step, the LCE formulates an EO initiating the formulation of the CDP. The EO is the document that gives authority to the local planner and the planning team to coordinate and demand cooperation from other sectors (departments, agencies) with regards to the CDP formulation.

Step 3 is Revisit Existing Plans and Review Vision, Goals, Objectives, Timetable and Strategies (VGOTS); and Validation of the SEPP. Together with the planning team, the local planner revisits the LGU’s VGOTS and validates the SEPP formulated in Step 1.

Step 4 is Prepare Structure List of Programs, Projects, and Activities (PPAs). This is a wish list of PPAs per sector.

Step 5 is Prepare the Local Development Investment Program (LDIP). The PPAs wish list in Step 4 is prioritized based on agreed criteria of the planning team. Step 4 and Step 5 in our 8-Step Modified CDP Process corresponds to Step 4 of the DILG CDP Guide.

Step 6 is Prepare Needed Implementation Instruments and Authority Levers and Formulation of the Draft CDP and LDIP. Step 6 in our 8-Step Modified CDP Process corresponds to Step 5 which is the last step of the DILG CDP Guide. I emphasized the importance of coming out with draft documents at this stage. The draft document will be the basis of the next and last two steps.

Step 7 is Conduct of Public Consultation and LDC meeting. One of the responsibilities of the P/C/MPDCs is to promote people participation in development planning within the LGU concerned. Hence, Step 7 validates the draft plan, develops local champions and advocates, and promotes transparency, accountability, and good governance of the LGU.

Step 8 is Adoption, Approval, Implementation, and Monitoring of the CDP and LDIP. This is considered the culmination of the plan formulation. A plan is only a piece of paper if not adopted, approved and implemented by the LGU. The CDP and LDIP is approved via a Sanggunian (Council) Resolution and implemented via a Sanggunian (Council) Annual Investment Plan Resolution and Budget Appropriation Ordinance. It is again another responsibility of the P/C/MPDCs to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the different development programs, projects, and activities in the local government unit concerned in accordance with the approved development plan.

I will further explain the required activities and outputs per stage in the 8-Step Modified CDP Process based on the DILG CDP Guide in my next blog entry.

If you want to learn more about the responsibilities of a P/C/MPDCs; How to Formulate a CDP without hiring a Planning consultant; and the different plans in the LGUs; check the links below.

Let me know your thoughts on the 8-Step Modified CDP Process based on the DILG CDP Guide.

Ten Tips on how to formulate your Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) without hiring a Planning Consultant

Urban Planning from National to Local Governments: Alignment and Relationship of Plans

What it meant to be a Local Government Planner