Political will 3
DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - January 16, 2019 - 12:00am

Red tape is supposed to be a pet peeve of President Duterte. As mayor in Davao he gave local bureaucrats a deadline to act on citizen requirements. He promised to replicate that from Malacanang.

Duterte did set up a call center shortly after he took office to take calls from citizens who are encountering problems with the national bureaucracy. Those who have used the facility are all praises. We haven’t heard much about the call center the past few months. We can assume it is either doing its work as well as when it started, or it was ningas cogon.

The other good news in this area is the passage of a law that deals with red tape. Duterte signed it, but the implementing rules are still forthcoming. Many government offices still have their red tape, but citizens now have the option of calling the President’s attention through his call center.

But red tape is inherent in the DNA of bureaucrats. Last week Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddyboy Locsin called his subordinates’ attention to a requirement of producing one’s birth certificate to renew a passport. As Sec. Locsin pointed out, the possession of a passport about to expire or expired should be enough. As it turns out, DFA lost passport records and they need the birth certificates to reconstruct their data base.

There is another thing about birth certificates... this document, believe it or not, expires. One must keep on going to the office that issues it. Ridiculous. It is the same information. It isn’t fresh milk that turns sour after a period of time. If it is a revenue raising measure of government, it is a wrong way to do that. It only inconveniences the public who will understandably hate government for it.

To the credit of the Duterte administration, it implemented two suggestions I have long proposed in this column: the five year driver’s license and the 10- year passport. As I have argued here, government can hardly keep up with the demand for licenses and passports, why require people to get renewals more often than necessary? Many other countries, including the US have 10-year passports and driver’s license good for five years or more.

But the bureaucracy’s love affair with red tape knows no bounds. There is this new regulation of the LTO, Memorandum Circular 2018-2157, which requires all LTO licensing sites to accept “only electronically transmitted medical examination certificates to the LTO IT systems.” This applies to both student permit applications and driver’s/conductor’s license applications and renewals.

Its implementation was not well thought out and lacked a proper public information program. It was implemented as if on a whim. Of course it caused massive problems with people wasting as much as a day to renew a driver’s license. This is one reaction I received:

“If it’s your birth month and you have to renew your license, prepare to have a hell of a time. LTO instituted a new requirement for a person to get a computerized medical certificate from accredited clinics. So far, there are only 19 accredited clinics, servicing the whole of metro Manila.

“It takes eight minutes to upload your medical data in these clinics and download a medical certificate. In a day, a clinic is allowed to process only 61 applicants, for millions of Metro Manila residents. Talk about government inefficiency, stupidity, or just maybe corruption.

“Before, the fee for a manual check up was P250, now it’s P450 for this computerized version. Ah… some of these government bureaucrats are so intelligent to make money, and so stupid to manage serving the people  efficiently and properly. This time, I’m fed up with this government. LTO was well run last year. Now they are in chaos.”

What would anyone expect? The LTO is a DOTr agency.

Actually, the medical certificate required by the LTO is a sham. Even before this electronic version, one hardly gets examined by the doctor who collects your P250 and signs your certificate after a couple of questions. Besides, what self respecting doctor chooses to sit in an LTO office just to sign medical certificates?

I appreciate the good intention for the medical clearance. I remember how an investigative reporter once sent a blind man to the LTO for a driver’s license. He got it including the LTO doctor certifying his 20/20 vision.

The better thing to do is get the applicant to present a certificate from his own doctor. If there is anything wrong, an applicant’s personal physician stakes his professional license on it.

It is a good thing they no longer require every applicant to take a drug test for P500 to renew a driver’s license. In the past, you are given a bottle with the instruction to pee in it. You get the all clear seconds after handing the bottle with the pee sample. At one time I saw the guy manning the desk throwing the bottle in the trash without even opening it.

The LTO is recalling the new medical certificate online requirement as we go to press. Just as well because one more thing wrong with its roll out is that the broadband connection in many LTO offices sucks.

President Duterte is right to focus on red tape. But he has to be more hands-on or appoint someone who can truthfully monitor progress on the ground. I give the President an A for his good intention, but at best a C for implementation. Political will is about producing positive results and not just the good intention to do so.

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is bchanco@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

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