Duterte vows to trim government fat
(The Philippine Star) - August 16, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - President Duterte wants to remove redundant posts and overlapping functions in the government, which has close to 200 offices and more than one million workers.

Duterte said it’s about time to “right-size the bureaucracy” as the number of national government offices and agencies has climbed to 186 from 176 in 2000.

The government now has 1.5 million positions compared to 1.1 million 16 years ago.

“We cannot deny that there is fat in government that we must trim,” the President said in a message released yesterday.

“The government bureaucracy must be lean, clean and nimble to be able to address the people’s urgent needs,” he added.

Duterte said he has ordered the agencies to streamline and automate their frontline and business processes, establish one-stop government centers and review their respective organizations.

“I would ask authority from Congress to eliminate redundant, duplicative and overlapping functions and organizations in the executive branch,” he said.

Malacañang will propose the “Streamlining the Government Act” to allow the executive to review its functions and organizational structure.

The measure will also allow the executive to merge or abolish agencies and implement other measures to improve the delivery of services.

“The proposed law will provide a reasonable separation package for personnel who may be affected by the rightsizing of the government,” Duterte said.

Pension system reforms

Duterte called for reforms in the pension system of uniformed personnel to address what he described as a “ballooning budget burden.”

He said such a problem would ensue if the pension requirement exceeds the compensation of those in the active service.

“The proposed law will create a pension fund that is similar to or part of the Government Service Insurance System, replacing the current system where the pension of the military and other uniformed personnel is appropriated annually by Congress.”

Presidential Decree 1638 signed by former president Ferdinand Marcos provides that retirees’ benefits should increase whenever the salaries of active soldiers are raised.

The previous administration had cited the need to reform the system, which is expected to bloat the pension costs due to the growing number of retirees. 

Meanwhile, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda is seeking a reform in the hiring process and pension plans so the government can increase the salaries of teachers, police and soldiers.

In a forum in Manila yesterday, Salceda said the administration’s call for a shift to the federal system must recognize that the Philippines lacks civil servants.

“We should resolve this within the next five years, when Congress expects federalism to come into play,” Salceda said.

He said the lack of bureaucrats and technocrats might hamper efforts to shift to federalism.

“With over 100 million population, the number of our civil servants is the same with that of Hong Kong, which has only 5.4 million people,” the Albay lawmaker said.

He advised the defense department to remove its pension fund for retired soldiers.

To resolve this, he said the government should “give automatic assets transfers to the Armed Forces and cover their reserve deficiency.”

“If the AFP creates a fund wherein both the interest and income are used to pay for the pension, it needs at least P300 billion to cover it and there will be no need for the AFP to ask government for pension budget every year,” Salceda explained.

He proposed that the fund that could buy around 300 hectares of Manila Bay for reclamation should be allotted for the AFP pension fund.

Salceda expressed confidence the government would be able to deliver its promise to raise the salaries of teachers and men and women in uniform.

“We can even achieve up to 7.7-percent growth rate in the country’s gross domestic product,” he said, adding the reforms made by the previous governments since 1986 are slowly taking effect.

Required work hours

In a related development, the President has issued a memorandum reminding all government employees to strictly observe and comply with the required work hours.

Memorandum Circular no. 3 issued on Aug. 8 also directed heads of departments, bureaus, offices, state-run firms and local governments to remind their subordinates on the need to follow regulations on work hours.

They were also instructed to impose appropriate sanctions and penalties to erring subordinates.

Government officers and employees, except those covered by special laws, are required to render not less than eight hours of work a day for five days a week or 40 hours a week, exclusive of lunch time. – Alexis Romero, Ghio Ong

 

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