Simplifying bureaucratic process
A bill that eliminates unnecessary expenses and saves ordinary Filipinos the inconvenience of acquiring birth, death, or marriage certificates by giving permanent validity to these documents is one step away from becoming law. Senators passed on final reading Senate Bill No. 2450 last May 23, with the House of Representatives adopting the same version on the same day. It is now awaiting the signature of the President.
The legislation provides a remedy and clarification where previously there was no policy set in stone, thus, causing confusion, not to mention additional expenses, among Filipinos who were under the impression that these documents had a validity period and that they had to request new copies every time they needed them for employment, education, immigration, or other official purposes. Although the Philippine Statistics Authority has previously clarified that an authenticated certificate it issues does not have an expiry, many offices still require that documents submitted should have been issued within the past six months.
The measure will save Filipinos money: An authenticated copy of a birth, death, or marriage certificate costs P155 (P365 if delivered to their home address), quite costly especially for new graduates or minimum wage earners. It will also save them time, especially those who still have to travel from far-flung areas and endure long queues, or in the case of online applications, wait for weeks before receiving the requested documents.
Common sense — why will an authenticated birth certificate, for example, expire over a certain period and need to be reapplied when it contains the same information — and technology should make the bureaucratic process more efficient, and that government should ensure that it is through laws and regulations. Two laws enacted under the Duterte administration, in fact, already made it easier to apply for business permits and conduct transactions with government, and the same should be done for other processes like applications for licenses (driver’s license, PRC, etc.) and passport renewal.
In 2018, Republic Act No. 11032 or the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act was signed into law. It streamlined government services and, through the automation of the business registration process, made it easier for businesses to start operating without having to wait for long processing time, or deal with red tape and bureaucratic corruption.
Earlier this month, President Duterte issued Executive Order No. 170 which requires all government agencies to provide a digital option in the payment of taxes, fees, tolls, etc., on top of cash and other traditional modes of payments. This will be such a relief for members of the public who normally endure traffic jams and long queues to be able to transact business at government offices. For an archipelago like the Philippines, this will also be the most practical and convenient way—provided that government must ensure that there is a reliable telecoms infrastructure to support it, meaning no wonky internet connection and also strong data privacy tools.
But the government’s biggest digital project yet should be the Philippine Identification System, which serves as the authentication platform for the Philippine Identification (PhilID) card. Amid concerns over data protection in light of previous security breaches at data centers such as the Commission on Elections, the government has assured there are safeguards in the system, and that as of April 30, it has delivered over 10 million cards — still a long way from the 92 million it targets by end of the year.
PhilID — which contains basic information, demographic and biometric data, and a lifetime unique identity number — can be used to claim for social welfare and benefits granted by the government (DSWD, PhilHealth, SSS, GSIS), pay fees, and open bank accounts. It is not, however, designed to replace the driver’s license, passport, and UMID.
All these measures altogether will certainly make identification and documentation more efficient for Filipinos — they will no longer have to pay for unnecessary documents or carry chunky files to conduct their transactions. But the government must ensure that the process will be inclusive and reach everyone, including those in remote areas and indigenous communities. With the incoming administration’s overwhelming mandate, it must do exactly this.
On the road to the modern and digital world, no one should be left unattended.
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