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With Due Respect

Banish red tape with digital tools

To redeem his election promise to banish red tape, promote transparency, and prevent graft, President Duterte recently issued Memorandum Circular No. 44 (MC 44) through Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea.

Citizen’s Charter. MC 44 directed “all government agencies … including government-owned or -controlled corporations, performing frontline services … to respond to all public requests and concerns within 15 days from receipt thereof, unless a shorter period is provided under applicable laws and issuances.”

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“Frontline services,” per Republic Act No. 9485 (RA 9485), refer to “the process or transaction between clients and government offices or agencies involving applications for any privilege, right, permit, reward, license, concession or for any modification, renewal or extension” thereof.

Approved by Congress on June 2, 2007, RA 9485 requires these offices to set up a “Citizen’s Charter in the form of information billboards which should be posted at the main entrance of the offices or at the most conspicuous place … 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 documents to be presented by the customer, if necessary; (e) the amount of fees, if necessary; and (f) the procedure for filing complaints.”

This law is stricter than MC 44 because it prescribes a period shorter than 15 days, thus: “not longer than five working days in the case of simple transactions and 10 working days in the case of complex transactions.”

When the nature of the service requested requires a longer period, the “office or agency concerned shall notify the requesting party in writing of the reason for the extension and the final date of release of the frontline service/s requested.”

Ethical Standards Law. These frontline agencies “shall be subjected to a Report Card Survey to be initiated by the Civil Service Commission … to obtain feedback on how the provisions in the Citizen’s Charter are being followed and how the agency is performing.”

RA 9485 provides administrative (suspension or dismissal from the service), criminal (imprisonment and/or fine) and civil (damages) penalties for violations of these deadlines.

Moreover, RA 6713 (the Ethical Standards Law which took effect on March 25, 1989) requires “all public officials … [not just those performing frontline services] within 15 days from receipt thereof, [to] respond to letters, telegrams or other means of communications sent by the public. The reply must contain the action taken on the request.”

The responses (per the Implementing Rules of RA 6713, dated April 21, 1989) should be by “a note or letter of acknowledgment where the matter is merely routinary or the action desired may be acted upon in the ordinary course of business … specifying the date when the matter will be disposed of and the name of the official or employee in charge thereof.”

“Where the matter is non-routinary or the issues involved are not simple or ordinary … [the] note or letter of acknowledgment [shall state] when [the matter] can be acted upon.”

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Digital tools. While penalties are the usual sanctions for violations of law, I believe rewards by way of public recognition and promotions to higher ranks should alternatively be accorded to public servants who follow meticulously and innovatively these anti-red-tape regulations.

Also, in addition to clumsy paper-based postings and acknowledgments, the latest digital tools, like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc. should be employed in receiving and responding to the people’s requests, petitions and questions.

Multiconversational platforms, similar to this paper’s website, should be used to provide instant service, without waiting for the prescribed deadlines, and CCTVs installed in these offices.

Moreover, instead of manually computing the results of the “Report Card Survey,” computer apps should be developed to give instant feedback thereon.

Of course, these digital-age mechanisms will require a lot of training similar to those accorded in call centers, which should be no-brainers because our young people are already adept in such undertakings.

Comments to chiefjusticepanganiban@hotmail.com

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TAGS: artemio v. panganiban, bureaucracy, red tape, With Due Respect
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