Corruption and Automation: An Anti-Thesis

Featured on January 29 and February 5, 2020 at Sunstar Bacolod

Serious efforts to curb graft and corruption by reducing red tape in every city and municipality are being undertaken by the Anti-Red tape Authority (ARTA) created under the Republic Act No. 11032. These efforts, however, will come to naught without an equally serious commitment on the part of citizens to understand and ensure that the new law is complied with by their city or municipality. Corrupt officials are usually averse to automation. Apathy or tolerance on the part of citizens make them privy to the corruption. Local business chambers which do not demand the compliance of their respective local government units to the law lose their moral ascendancy to even claim that they are working for a progressive local economy

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) aggressively undertakes a nation-wide campaign to promote the law anchored on its main benefit – faster and easier application for government-issues permits, licenses and certificates. Customers, clients or citizens are encouraged to provide feedback for service improvement should they be not satisfied with the service provided.

This article will discuss the salient features of RA 11032, a new law which promotes ease of doing business and efficient government service and amends Republic Act No. 9485 or the Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007. The so-called ease of doing business (EODB) law, it mandates the streamlining and improving the current systems and procedure of government services and aims to reduce processing time, cut bureaucratic red tape and eliminate corrupt practices.

The law applies to all government offices and agencies including local Government units (LGUs), government-owned and controlled corporations and other government instrumentalities, whether located in the Philippines or abroad that provide services covering business and non-business related transactions.

The main requirement of the law is for government entities to craft and disseminate a Citizen’s Charter that will design specific rules and will make the source office liable responsible and liable for non-compliance. It is therefore imperative especially for LGUs to create or revised their Citizen’s Charters by December last year based on the deadline set by RA 11032.

Government transactions must adopt “zero contact” policy and must have corresponding maximum period for processing of permits, licenses and certificates. Except during the preliminary assessment, no government office or employee shall have any contact, in any manner, unless strictly necessary with any requesting party concerning an application or request.

To effectively assist the citizens, clients and customers, the government entities in its Citizens Charter, administrative policies and local legislations, must set up the most current and updated service standards in the form of information billboards that detail comprehensive form checklist of requirements for each type of application or request, procedure to obtain a particular service, persons responsible for each step, maximum time to conclude the process, document/s to be presented by the applicant or requesting party, amount of fees and procedure for filing complaints.

The head of the office or agency shall be primarily responsible for the implementation of this Act and shall be held accountable to the public in rendering fast, efficient, convenient, and reliable service.

For all lawful and official transactions with government, every customer or client must ensure that government agencies accept applications, requests, and documents, perform preliminary assessment, assign a unique identification number to an application request and issue an acknowledgement receipt. The acknowledgement receipt shall contain seal of agency, name of the responsible officer or employee, unit and designation, and the date and time of receipt

Under RA 11032 and which should be defined in the local government unit’s citizen’s charter, the maximum prescribe time for simple transaction is 3 working days. For complex transactions, the maximum period is 7 working days and highly technical transaction, 20 working days. The period may be extended only once for the same number of days. For transactions which requires Sanggunian approval, the maximum is 45 working days. The period can be extended for another 20 working days.

The maximum numbers of signatories in any document shall be limited to a maximum of 3 signatures. No application shall be returned to the applicant or requesting party without appropriate action. Any denial of application or request for access to government service shall be fully explained.

When applicable, the government office can develop electronic versions of licenses, clearances, permits, certifications, or authorizations with the same level of authority as that of the signed hard copy, which may be printed by the applicants or requesting parties in the convenience of their offices.

If a government office or agency fails to approve or disapprove an original application or request for within the prescribed processing time, said application or request shall be deemed approved for as long as all required documents have been submitted and all required fees and charges have been paid. If a government office or agency fails to act on an application or request for renewal within the prescribed processing time, said license clearance, permit, certification or authorization shall automatically be extended.

The law mandates the reengineering of systems and procedures starting with by undertaking cost compliance analysis, time and motion studies, and evaluation and improvement of transaction systems and procedures. All government offices must also undergo regulatory impact assessment of proposed regulations to establish if the proposed regulation does not add undue regulatory burden and cost to agencies and applicants or requesting parties; and initiate review of existing policies and operations and commence with the reengineering of systems and procedures.

All LGUs are required to streamline procedures for the issuance of local business licenses, clearances, permits, certifications or authorizations through the use of unified business application form, establishment of business one stop shop (BOSS). Cities and municipalities are mandated to automate their business permitting and licensing system or set up an e-BOSS within by 2021 or within 3 years from the passage of the law.

Barangay clearances and permits related to doing business shall be applied, issued, and collected at the city or municipality or co-located within the LGUs. The city or municipal business process and licensing office shall not require the same documents already provided by an applicant or requesting party to the local government. Business permits shall be valid for a period of 1 year. The city or municipality may have the option to renew business permits within the first month of the year or on the anniversary date of the issuance of the business permit.

Under RA 11032 and which should be defined in the local government unit’s citizen’s charter, the maximum prescribe time for simple transaction is 3 working days. For complex transactions, the maximum period is 7 working days and highly technical transaction, 20 working days. The period may be extended only once for the same number of days. For transactions which requires Sanggunian approval, the maximum is 45 working days. The period can be extended for another 20 working days.

The mandated maximum deadline for issuance of Fire safety Evaluation Clearance (FSEC) and for Fire Safety Inspection Certificate (FSIC) is 7 working days,          while for a Certificate of Fire Incident (CFI), 20 working days and may be extended once. The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) must also be co-located at the BOSS of the city or municipality, where said office shall enter into agreement and develop an online or electronic mechanism for such applications. The BFP shall not sell, offer or recommend specific brands of fire extinguishers and other fire safety equipment to any applicant or requesting party or business entity, otherwise the guilty officer will be liable by imprisonment of one to six (6) years and a penalty of not less than five hundred thousand pesos to two million pesos.

Punishable acts under RA 11032 include acceptance of application or request with complete requirements being submitted by an applicant or requesting party without due cause; imposition of additional requirements other than those listed in the Citizen’s Charter; and imposition of additional costs not reflected in the Citizen’s Charter. The law also penalizes the failure to give the applicant or requesting party a written notice on the disapproval of an application or request; failure to render government services within the prescribed processing time on any application or request without due cause; failure to attend applicants or requesting parties who are within premises of the office or agency concerned prior to the end of official working hours and during lunch break; failure or refusal to issue official receipt; and fixing and/or collusion with fixers in consideration or economic and/or other gain or advantage.

Penalties and liabilities range from 6 months without pay as administrative liability for first offence and disqualification from the public office and forfeiture of retirement benefits for second offense, including imprisonment of one to six (6) years and a penalty of not less than five hundred thousand pesos to two million pesos. Criminal Liability shall also be incurred through the commission of bribery, extortion, or when the violation was done deliberately and maliciously to solicit favor in cash or in kind.

We deserve the kind of government we have, says a wide adage. Hence, a citizenry that allows corruption to thrive deserves the poor service and substandard programs it receives from its government. That’s why need to strive to become good citizens even as we dream of a good government.

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