Have you ever experienced transacting with a Philippine government agency and you suffer from the complicated procedures, time-consuming steps, and unnecessary requirements that the office personnel have required you to comply? Well, you’re not alone. Red tape, defined by the dictionary as the excessive bureaucracy or adherence to rules and formalities which results in delay or inaction, is not unusual in the Philippine government offices. No wonder we are ranked 138th in the latest “Ease of Doing Business Index” conducted by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the World Bank.
If you are applying for a business permit or license, inquiring information, and getting other services from the government, you might experience Red Tape. This practice causes inefficiency in the delivery of the government services to its people. It is also a major cause of graft and corruption in the country. That is why the government has enacted Republic Act No. 9485 otherwise known as the “Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007” to improve efficiency in the delivery of government service to the public by reducing bureaucratic red tape and prevent graft and corruption in government agencies and offices.
The Anti-red Tape Law in the Philippines was already existing and effective since 2007, yet many Filipinos are not aware of this law. Although this act is a directive to the government agencies and their officers, the public should also be aware of it so that they may learn what available rights and privileges they have when they do transactions with the government.
To inform the public, the following are some of the important notes that every people in the country, whether they are government personnel or people who are doing transaction with the government, should know about the Anti-red Tape Law in the Philippines.
All government agencies should regularly improve their system
This is an instruction to all government agencies. According to Section 5 of the Act, all offices and agencies which provide frontline services are hereby 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.
Thus, Filipinos should always be observant of all the government offices, in which they usually do transactions with. Although it is the Civil Service Commission (CSC) and other agencies mandated by the law which are primarily responsible to evaluate government agencies, we should also observe these public trust offices if they are really improving.
The law directed government agencies to create a Citizen’s Charter
To make the services of the government to the public more efficient, Section 6 of the Anti-Red Tape Act mandates all government agencies to 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 or in the local dialect that detail the following:
(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.
The Citizen Charter is aimed to guide citizens when they are transacting or getting the services of the government agencies. Hence, if you are planning to deal with a certain government agency, you have to ask for a citizen charter or manual which should be displayed conspicuously at the government office. Most government websites that I have visited so far have a Citizen’s Charter or manual that can be downloaded from their sites.
The law prescribes processes for accessing frontline services
Frontline Services refer to the processes or transactions between clients and government offices or agencies involving applications for any privilege, right, permit, reward, license, concession, or for any modification, renewal or extension of the enumerated applications and or requests which are acted upon in the ordinary course of business of the agency or office concerned.
In section 8 of the Act, the law mandates all government agencies and offices to adopt the following instructions for Accessing Frontline Services:
(a) Acceptance of Applications and Request –
(1) All officers or employees shall accept written applications, requests, and/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.
(b) Action of Offices –
(1) 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 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. Depending on the nature of the frontline services requested or the mandate of the office or agency under unusual circumstances, the maximum time prescribed above may be extended. For the extension due to nature of frontline services or the mandate of the office or agency concerned the period for the delivery of frontline services shall be indicated in the Citizen’s Charter. 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.
(2) 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 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.
(c) Denial of Request for Access to Government Service – 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. Any denial of request is deemed to have been made with the permission or clearance from the highest authority having jurisdiction over the government office or agency concerned.
(d) Limitation of Signatories – 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.
(e) Adoption of Working Schedules to Serve Clients – 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.
(f) Identification Card – All employees transacting with the public shall be provided with an official identification card which should be visibly worn during office hours.
(g) Establishment of Public Assistance/Complaints Desk – Each office or agency shall establish a public assistance/complaints desk in all their offices.
If you are going to a government office to do any transaction with their personnel, you have to always keep those things above in mind. All of the government offices must have a public assistance/complaints desk and all the personnel must have identification card. Also remember that the officer in charge should accept your written application, request and documents, especially if they are already complete, and he or she should acknowledge receipt of your documents for your proof of submission.
The Act gives automatic extension of permits and licenses
According to Section 9 of the Act, if a government office or 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.
The law mandates government agencies to establish a feedback mechanism
Section 10 of the Act states that all offices and agencies providing frontline services shall be subjected to a Report Card Survey to be initiated by the Civil Service Commission, in coordination with the Development Academy of the Philippines, 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 will also be used to detect information and estimates of hidden costs incurred by clients to access frontline services which may include bribes and payment to fixers.
The Act punishes fixers and government personnel who violates the law
The Anti-red tape law in the Philippines punishes fixers and violators of the Act. According to Section 11 of the law, the following shall constitute violations of this Act together with their corresponding penalties after compliance with the substantive and procedural due process:
(a) Light Offense –
(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.
Penalties for light offense shall be as follows:
First Offense – Thirty (30) days suspension without pay and mandatory attendance in Values Orientation Program;
Second Offense – Three (3) months suspension without pay; and
Third Offense – Dismissal and perpetual disqualification from public service.
(b) Grave Offense – Fixing and/or collusion with fixers in consideration of economic and/or other gain or advantage.
Penalty – Dismissal and perpetual disqualification from public service
In Section 12 of the Act, fixers will be charged with criminal liability.
SEC. 12. Criminal Liability for Fixers. – In addition to Sec. 11 (b), fixers, as defined in this Act, 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 Act defines a “fixer” in Section 4 as any individual whether or not officially involved in the operation of a government office or agency who has access to people working therein, and whether or not in collusion with them, facilitates speedy completion of transactions for pecuniary gain or any other advantage or consideration.
This law also needs support from the public
Although the Anti-red tape law is administered by the Civil Service Commission (CSC), the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission (PAGC) or the Office of the Ombudsman, this law also needs great support from the public. This Act already existed since 2007 yet the red tape in the Philippines seems to not have yet slowed down these past few years.
I’m not also sure if all the government officers and employees are well-informed about this. I’m not also sure if the majority of Filipinos who are transacting with the government agencies are fully aware of this law. As I was saying, this law should be supported by all of us. All government offices and their personnel must respect the law. Moreover, all the people in the Philippines who are dealing with the government offices must also keep observant whether this law is well implemented or not.
Please read the full text of Republic Act No. 9485 – Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007 here: