Last hurrah
HIDDEN AGENDA - Mary Ann LL. Reyes (The Philippine Star) - November 14, 2020 - 12:00am

Recently, President Duterte announced that he would devote his remaining years in office to fighting corruption, even as he ordered the Department of Justice to start an investigation into allegations of corruption in the entire government.

In connection with this, the President created a mega task force, headed by the DOJ Secretary and which would include as its members the Office of the Ombudsman, Civil Service Commission, Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission, and the Commission on Audit, to conduct the government-wide corruption investigation.

The Chief Executive has also offered a reward to anyone who reports corrupt officials or anomalous projects, even as he warned that many corrupt government employees would lose their jobs come December. The President gave the task force until June 30, 2022, which is his last day in office, to eradicate corruption in government.

Aside from the Department of Public Works and Highways, which the President specifically named as one of the most corrupt government agencies, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has identified other priority government agencies in its corruption probe, such as the Bureau of Customs, the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the Land Registration Authority, and PhilHealth.

The DOJ said a minimum threshold of P1 billion in public funds involved would be one of the parameters in the investigation, as well as the rank of the persons involved, and the impact on the delivery of services to the public.

Last week, the President revealed the names of officials and employees of the BOC who were dismissed by the Office of the Ombudsman for various offenses.

Aside from corruption, another problem hampering the delivery of basic services to the public is red tape.

Both houses of Congress have already approved on final reading a bill certified as urgent by the President which would give him the authority to expedite the processing and issuance of national and local permits, licenses and certifications in times of national emergency, as well as to suspend or waive requirements in securing such authorizations.

I recently experienced first-hand red tape in government. To pay for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) registration fee for the issuance of the certificate of incorporation (the filing of the incorporation papers was done online), one can either pay at the SEC main office in Pasay or at select branches of Land Bank (only eight branches are allowed for the entire National Capital Region). At this time of the pandemic when most payments can now be done online, SEC does not allow online bank transfer to its Land Bank account. Why can’t SEC and other government agencies avail of the services of electronic fund services like InstaPay, PesoNet, PayMaya, or GCash.

The P2,350 registration fee is broken down into P2,000 for the registration of the corporation, P300 for the name verification, P20 for the legal research fee, and P30 for the documentary stamp tax. For each item, I had to fill out four deposit slips, each requiring four copies (one goes to Land Bank, two you will have to submit to the SEC, together with the physical accomplished forms and one personal copy).

To avoid delays, I went to a Land Bank branch to get several deposit slips and filled them out. According to the SEC payment assessment form, if the fund code is SRC or RCC, I must use a regular deposit slip and not the oncoll payment slip for those with BTR fund code. The assessment form also said that for over the counter payments, I should fill out separate deposit slips per fund account as indicated in the breakdown summary. The summary clearly showed three fund accounts – BTR for the P20, BTR for the P30, and RCC for the P2,300.

However,  Land Bank informed me that the P2,300 should have two deposit slips (of four copies each) and that the P2,000 and the P300 should be separate. Not only that, even if it says RCC, it should be written on an oncoll deposit slip.

So my preparation went to waste, and even if I was the first client that day, at least five other people finished ahead of me.

I hope that the Anti Red Tape Authority (ARTA) looks into the possibility of making payments for availment of government services more convenient and simpler, and not just by reducing the number of steps and forms needed.

Speaking of efficient delivery of services, the 8888 Citizens’ Complaint Center, through a letter sent to BIR Commissioner Caesar Dulay last Oct. 22 by director Bernadette Casinabe of the Center’s Strategic Action and Response Office, commended the BIR for its efforts in ensuring that all 804 tickets referred to the agency as of Sept. 30, 2020 have been acted upon and resolved within the prescribed period.

Dulay assured that the bureau would continue to act on citizens’ complaints, queries, suggestions and other concerns, acknowledging that many of these are valuable feedback from taxpayers to help the agency identify areas that still need improvement, but more importantly would also serve as inputs to ongoing investigations and initiatives to get rid of the remaining bad eggs in the BIR.

He hopes that the DOJ’s anti-graft probe can help the agency get rid of unscrupulous individuals, officials, employees, and examiners who continue with their corrupt practices.

Dulay said that while the bureau welcomes criticisms, complaints, as well as the anti-graft probe, they hope that more people would likewise notice the tremendous improvements done so far through concerted efforts of revenue offices nationwide.

He said that several taxpayers have already expressed their satisfaction with the bureau’s services, a manifestation that the changes introduced in tax administration have already been felt across the country, which is the aim of the BIR’s tax campaign theme this year, Mahusay na Serbisyo, Ramdam na Pagbabago.

Dulay welcomes the inclusion of the agency in the DOJ’s anti-corruption investigation, and assures full cooperation with the probe.

BIR revenue collections during Dulay’s term have consistently increased, accounting for about 75 percent of total government revenues. Last year, collections reached P2 trillion, attaining 96.3 percent of the target.

Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez earlier said BIR’s collection represents a growth rate of 11.4 percent, outpacing economic growth and helped bring the government’s tax effort to historic highs.

For comments, e-mail at mareyes@philstarmedia.com

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