MANILA – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Wednesday belied the accusation of leftist group Bayan Muna that local chief executives (LCEs) are being forced by the agency to support the Anti-Terrorism Bill, calling the accusation an affront and insult to local government executives nationwide.

“Bayan Muna’s claim that LGUs are being forced into supporting the Anti-Terrorism Bill is a complete falsehood and an affront and insult to the dignity, intelligence, and integrity of all local government officials nationwide who have freely expressed their support to the bill that was passed recently by Congress,” said DILG Undersecretary and spokesperson Jonathan Malaya in a news release.

“Nagbubulag-bulagan lamang ang Bayan Muna sa mga hinaing ng mga LGUs at ng ating mga kababayan lalo na sa mga lugar na patuloy na sinisira ng mga terorista gaya ng Marawi, Samar, Bicol, Caraga at marami pang iba (Bayan Muna is turning a blind eye on the concerns of the LGUs and their constituents especially in areas being plagued by terrorists like Marawi, Samar, Bicol, Caraga, and many others),” he said.

Malaya clarified that LGUs are endowed with local autonomy under the 1987 Constitution.

“Therefore, they are not under the control of the DILG. We only ensure that they comply with laws, rules, and regulations. So how can Bayan Muna claim that the DILG is forcing them? We cannot and have not done so,” he said.

He said Bayan Muna should not look down on LGUs and assume that they cannot think for themselves.

“Ano naman ang tingin ng Bayan Muna sa mga LGUs, na wala silang sariling paninindigan at pag-iisip? Ramdam ng LGUs ang panawagan ng kanilang mga kababayan na matagal ng isinusuka ang mga terorista (Does Bayan Muna think that LGUs don’t have their own stands and thinking? The LGUs feel the sentiments of their constituents who have long been denouncing terrorists),” he added.

Meanwhile, DILG Secretary Eduardo Año commended the 784 Local Chief Executives (LCEs) for making a genuine stand in support of the Anti-Terrorism Bill despite the massive disinformation campaign against it.

“Salamat sa (We thank the) 784 LCEs na naniniwala sa tunay na hangarin ng (that believe in the true intention of the) Anti-Terrorism Bill. Once signed by the President, it will become a landmark law that will need the support of the LGUs kaya kami ay natutuwa na (and so we are happy that( as early as now ay marami na ang nagpapahayag ng pagsuporta dito (many are expressing their support to this measure),” Año said.

He said that of the 784 LCEs, 43 are governors, which is 53 percent of the total number nationwide. He says that having the support of half of the provinces in the country is already a victory towards ending terrorism in the country.

Meanwhile, 68 city mayors and 673 municipal mayors have also expressed their solidarity and are backing the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Bill.

“So far, we have almost half of the LGUs who are one with us in supporting the Anti-Terrorism Bill. It is a huge morale booster for us sapagkat ito ay nangangahulugan lamang na hindi kami nag-iisa sa laban na ito (because this means that we are not alone in this battle),” he said.

Año said that Region IV-A has the most number of LCEs supporting the Bill with 96 followed by Region II with 91; 88 for Region III; Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) with 80; and Region I with 73. Other regions such as Mimaropa has 58; Region XI with 53; Region VI with 52; and Region XII with 50 while Regions V, VII, and XIII have 24, 21, and 32, respectively.

The National Capital Region and Region VIII have six and four, respectively.

“We have been receiving support from all LGUs across the country, lalo na sa mga malalayong LGU na nagiging biktima ng terorismo at naniniwala na itong bill na ito ang sagot sa kanilang mga problema at pagdurusa (especially from far-flung LGUs who fell victims to terrorism and believe that this bill is the answer to their problems and agony,” he said.

Support from the ground

Support for the Anti-Terrorism Bill coming from the LGUs are expected to increase, according to Año, as more continue to express their support for the bill down at the grassroots.

He said that among the LCEs who have conveyed their support for the Bill are Metro Manila Mayors League Chairman Edwin Olivarez, San Juan City Mayor Francis Zamora; Makati City Mayor Abby Binay; Manila City Mayor Isko Moreno; Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez; and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.

Meanwhile, Quirino Governor and Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP) president Dakila Carlos Cua said “Generally, I would say about 80 percent are supportive, most of the local executives see the value and importance of the anti-terrorism bill”. (DILG)