Improving Efficiency in the Philippine Government – The Anti-Red Tape Law
Entrepreneurs are exposed to government agencies in the usual daily grind of their business. Most companies have to submit monthly forms to the Bureau of Internal Revenue such as the 2550M (Monthly Value-Added Tax Declaration), or the 2551 M (Monthly Percentage Tax Return) or the 1601-C (Monthly Remittance Return of Income Taxes Withheld on Compensation). Employers have to file their reports with the Social Security System, Philhealth and the Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-ibig). Entrepreneurs have to renew their business permits every January with the respective local government unit where their business is located. Corporations have to file their financial statements with the Securities & Exchange Commission within 120 calendar days after the end of the fiscal year. Moreover, corporations also have to submit their General Information Sheet (GIS) with the Securities & Exchange Commission within 30 days from the date of the annual actual stockholders’ meeting. If no meeting is held, said GIS must be filed not later than January 30 of the next calendar year.
As such, exposure to government agencies is inevitable. However, most entrepreneurs oftentimes find it frustrating to deal with government agencies because of the bureaucratic red tape, corruption and slow delivery of services. In response to this prevalent sentiment, Republic Act No. 9485, or the Anti-Red Tape Act, was enacted to improve efficiency in the delivery of government service to the public by reducing bureaucratic red tape and preventing graft and corruption. Thus, the policy of the Anti Red Tape Act is to promote integrity, accountability, proper management of public affairs and public property as well as to establish effective practices aimed at the prevention of graft and corruption in government. The law aims to promote transparency in each agency with regard to the manner of transacting with the public, which shall encompass a program for the adoption of simplified procedures that will reduce red tape and expedite transactions in government.
The Anti-Ted Tape Act applies to all government agencies. However, those performing judicial (such as courts), quasi-judicial (i.e. National Labor Relations Commission, Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board) and legislative (Congress) functions are excluded from the coverage of the law. However, their respective frontline services are deemed included.
The salient features of the Anti-Red Tape Act are as follows:
A. All government agencies which provide frontline services are mandated to regularly undertake time and motion studies, undergo evaluation and improvement of their transaction systems and procedures and re-engineer the same if deemed necessary to reduce bureaucratic red tape and processing time.
B. All government agencies shall set up their respective service standards to be known as the Citizen's Charter in the form of information billboards which should be posted at the main entrance of offices or at the most conspicuous place, and in the form of published materials written either in English, Filipino, or in the local dialect, that detail:
(a) The procedure to obtain a particular service;
(b) The person/s responsible for each step;
(c) The maximum time to conclude the process;
(d) The document/s to be presented by the customer, if necessary;
(e) The amount of fees, if necessary; and
(f) The procedure for filing complaints.
C. More accessible frontline services such as:
1. All officers or employees shall accept written applications, requests, or documents being submitted by clients of the office or agencies.
2. The responsible officer or employee shall acknowledge receipt of such application and/or request by writing or printing clearly thereon his/her name, the unit where he/she is connected with, and the time and date of receipt.
3. The receiving officer or employee shall perform a preliminary assessment of the request so as to promote a more expeditious action on requests.
4. All applications and/or requests submitted shall be acted upon by the assigned officer or employee during the period stated in the Citizen's Charter which shall not be longer than five (5) working days in the case of simple transactions and ten (10) working days in the case of complex transactions from the date the request or application was received. “Simple Transactions” refer to requests or applications which only require ministerial actions on the part of the public officer or employee, or that which present only inconsequential issues for resolution by an officer or employee of said government office. On the other hand, “Complex Transactions” refer to requests or applications submitted by clients of a government office which necessitate the use of discretion in the resolution of complicated issues by an officer or employee of said government office, such transaction to be determined by the office concerned.
5. Depending on the nature of the frontline services requested, the maximum time prescribed above may be extended. The office or agency concerned shall notify the requesting party in writing of the reason for the extension and the final date of release for the extension and the final date of release of the frontline service/s requested.
6. No application or request shall be returned to the client without appropriate action. In case an application or request is disapproved, the officer or employee who rendered the decision shall send a formal notice to the client within five (5) working days from the receipt of the request and/or application, stating therein the reason for the disapproval including a list of specific requirement/s which the client failed to submit.
7. Any denial of request for access to government service shall be fully explained in writing, stating the name of the person making the denial and the grounds upon which such denial is based.
8. The number of signatories in any document shall be limited to a maximum of five signatures which shall represent officers directly supervising the office or agency concerned.
9. Heads of offices and agencies which render frontline services shall adopt appropriate working schedules to ensure that all clients who are within their premises prior to the end of official working hours are attended to and served even during lunch break and after regular working hours.
10. All employees transacting with the public shall be provided with an official identification card which should be visibly worn during office hours.
11. Government agencies shall establish a public assistance/complaints desk in all their offices.
D. If a government agency fails to act on an application and/or request for renewal of a license, permit or authority subject for renewal within the prescribed period, said permit, license or authority shall automatically be extended until a decision or resolution is rendered on the application for renewal: provided that the automatic extension shall not apply when the permit, license, or authority covers activities which pose danger to public health, public safety, public morals or to public policy including, but not limited to, natural resource extraction activities or when the license or permit has already expired.
E. All offices and agencies providing frontline services shall be subjected to a Report Card Survey which shall be used to obtain feedback on how provisions in the Citizen's Charter are being followed and how the agency is performing. The Report Card Survey shall also be used to obtain information and/or estimates of hidden costs incurred by clients to access frontline services which may include, but is not limited to, bribes and payment to fixers.
Violation of the Anti-Red Tape Act is punishable by administrative penalties, fine and/or imprisonment. For light offenses, the first offense is punishable by thirty (30) days suspension without pay and mandatory attendance in Values Orientation Program; Second Offense by three (3) months suspension without pay; and the third Offense merits dismissal and perpetual disqualification from public service.
The following are considered as light offenses:
1. Refusal to accept application and/or request within the prescribed period or any document being submitted by a client;
2. Failure to act on an application and/or request or failure to refer back to the client a request which cannot be acted upon due to lack of requirement/s within the prescribed period;
3. Failure to attend to clients who are within the premises of the office or agency concerned prior to the end of official working hours and during lunch
4. Failure to render frontline services within the prescribed period on any application and/or request without due cause;
5. Failure to give the client a written notice on the disapproval of an application or request; and
6. Imposition of additional irrelevant requirements other than those listed in the first notice.
On the other hand, grave offenses are those considered as fixing and/or collusion with fixers in consideration of economic and/or other gain or advantage. This is penalized by dismissal and perpetual disqualification from public service. In addition, fixers shall suffer the penalty of imprisonment not exceeding six years or a fine not less than Twenty Thousand Pesos (P20,000.00) but not more than Two Hundred Thousand Pesos (P200,000.00) or both fine and imprisonment at the discretion of the court.
The policy of the Anti-Red Tape Act is commendable. Such response by Congress shows a glimmer of hope to the citizen’s ardent wish to have a more responsive government. As such, everyone is watching closely if indeed, this policy can be properly implemented and will eliminate the long-standing culture of government inaction and bureaucratic red tape.