By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
The Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018 was signed yesterday setting clear 3-7-20-day deadlines, depending on the complexity of the transaction, to approve and act an application for permits or face penalties in a heightened effort to eliminate redtape and corruption in government.
The IRR was signed by Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, Jeremiah B. Belgica, and Civil Service Commission Chairman Alicia Dela Rosa-Bala witnessed by principal authors of the law Senator Miguel Zubiri and Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy.
Belgica said the IRR will be published today, and full implementation will take effect 15 days after its publication. The law was signed in May last year and took effect in June, but the IRR took longer because of the delay in the appointment of the Director-General.
One of the main provisions of the law, which created the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) Council to implement the law, is the standardization of processing time for applications and transactions with the government. For simple transaction, government agencies are given three working days; seven working days for complex transactions; and 20 working days for those requiring highly technical assessment.
The law imposes hefty penalties against violators and those not complying with the law. On the first offense, a six-month suspension will be meted out to those proven violating the law. On the other hand, one to six years of imprisonment; a fine of no less than P500,000 but no more than P2 million; and termination of retirement benefits await those who will commit a second count.
Rule VIII of the IRR provides for the automatic approval or automatic extension, renewal of license, clearance, permit, certification or authorization upon verification that the applicant has needed fully submitted all necessary documents and paid all the required fees.
To ensure faster implementation, ARTA has required all government agencies to submit their Citizens Charter, primarily a set of requirements needed by a particular agency on its applicants. As of April this year, there have been 793 citizen charters submitted out of the 19,301 government services.
Newly-appointed ARTA Chief Belgica said, “There is a chance to change things if you stand by what is right. That is the reason we are here.”
Belgica stressed that ARTA is a campaign promise of President Duterte, who openly decried government red tape as he bewailed the long queues of people transacting with government offices for simple permits and licenses.
He blamed government red tape as the culprit why “business is not open, books are not open, inventions are not patented, and Filipino ingenuity in general was hampered.”
The ARTA office, which is open 20×7 will receive complaints on social media and electronic means. But the process would still include complaint evaluation, verification and identification of complainants, acts being complained about, and evidence of the complainant.
If there is a strong evidence of violation, ARTA will submit its recommendation to the disciplining bodies of the government such as the Ombudsman and the Civil Service Commission. It can also recommend preventive suspension of the erring employees.
On the effectivity of the law, Belgica said this cannot be measured by the number of cases filed or government officials being penalized but, the law’s impact should translate into “ease and speed of doing business and standing in the global competitiveness” because that is a result that emanates from the private sector not just big business but small business.
Private sector representative Guillermo Luz stressed that the key performance indicator of the law’s success should be in terms of where the Philippines stands in the global competitiveness survey, where the country still lags behind among countries, especially in the ease of doing business survey.
But Luz said that he would rather go for automation and have all transactions times-tamped to see how many transactions been tackled within a day or two or three. “A report card is the best measure and easy to understand,” he said.
The last key performance indicator, he said, is the economy if more businesses have been opened and more jobs created and eventually growth. He noted that cities with ease of doing business attract more businesses than those that are slow to act.
While the law covers all government agencies including quasi-judicial bodies, Belgica said they will come up with a circular to clarify the treatment of their charters.
Atty Ernesto V. Perez, ARTA deputy director-general, stressed that the IRR gives the teeth that “reforms are not just on paper but concrete action beneficial to business and ordinary people transacting with government.”
The long queues of individuals transacting with the government end with the ARTA, the gatekeeper to regulatory reforms to ensure that efforts have definite impact on government efficiencies will bear fruit in the next three years.
“We urge people to speak out against corruption and inefficiency without getting lost in our anger,” said Perez.