Rody’s B.O.S.S.
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - September 6, 2019 - 12:00am

At the surface, it would seem the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) is a model of efficiency by the swiftness they processed the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) that freed even those convicted of heinous crimes. BuCor even nearly pulled a fast one too when they almost released ex-Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez out of the National Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City.

Before they could do so, it turned out, it took President Rodrigo Duterte to stop them from releasing Sanchez who was serving seven life-term jail sentences at the NBP for the Sarmenta-Gomez double murder/rape case. But the President’s action came after the BuCor already freed more than 1,900 NBP inmates who included those convicted for life-term on the rape-murder of the Chiong sisters. And now the hunt begins to bring back those 1,900 who were freed through a hastily granted GCTA.

Obviously, there is no red tape problem in as far as BuCor officials led by their director-general Nicanor Faeldon did their processing of GCTA.

But this wasn’t so. Jeremiah Belgica, the newly minted Director-General of the Anti Red Tape Authority, or ARTA for short, noted with concern how the BuCor committed a different kind of red tape. Belgica, himself a lawyer, said the BuCor apparently applied selective speed in the processing of GCTA for the rest of persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) still remaining inside the NBP.

Appointed by President Duterte in July this year, Belgica heads the ARTA as the body mandated to implement Republic Act (RA) No. 11032, otherwise called as the Ease of Doing Business and Effective Government Service Delivery Act. Belgica came into office one year after President Duterte signed into law RA 11032 on July 16, 2018. Belgica holds a Cabinet-ranked position under the Office of the President and is empowered by law to go after all government officials who fail to comply with anti-red tape measures spelled out under RA 11032.

Red tape is one of the worst problems in the bureaucracy that abets corruption. The term “red tape” is actually an idiom that refers to excessive bureaucracy or rigid adherence to rules and formalities, redundant at times. Hence, red tape unnecessarily prolongs the process and conduct of business transactions of the public with government agencies and offices.

When it hinders or prevents action or decision-making, red tape in governments, corporations, and other large organizations lose not only a lot of economic opportunities but also costs so much unwanted expenses and scandalous controversies as in the case of the aborted release of Sanchez by the BuCor.

We raised the BuCor processing of the GCTA to the ARTA chief who was our featured guest in this week’s Kapihan sa Manila Bay at Café Adriatico in Malate. The ARTA chief is the younger brother of Greco Belgica, one of the commissioners of the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission (PACC), also an agency attached under the office of President Duterte.

The anti-red tape czar noted the latest events made them keen on watching the prison agency. “If the processing is too fast than usual, is that still red tape? It could be, because if it is too fast-tracked, it raises a lot of red flags,” Belgica said in Filipino.

In fact, the questioned release of almost 2,000 heinous crime convicts raised doubts on how the agency processed the GCTA, prompting both chambers of the 18th Congress to look into it, Belgica cited. Senate president Vicente Sotto III scored how flawed the BuCor implemented the GCTA under the RA 10592 they passed into law during the 15th Congress. This was after the Supreme Court ruling on June 25 this year which declared that RA 10592 has retroactive application to all those convicted after it became a law in 2013.

As envisioned by its principal authors and sponsors who included Sotto, the GCTA was intended to benefit those having served their imprisonment sentence but could be released for good conduct, especially those already aged and sickly. “The families of sickly and old inmates that should be benefitting from the GCTA Law can file a complaint to us so we can investigate,” Belgica advised.

While admitting the ARTA has yet to receive grievances and complaints on processing at the BuCor, Belgica clarified his agency can initiate motu proprio or can act on its own to investigate into specific cases without a formal request or referral. “Maybe it’s because the complainant is behind bars so they have no way to reach us. In another case, someone who wants processing expedited would not complain,” Belgica pointed out.

During our Kapihan sa Manila Bay breakfast news forum last Wednesday, Belgica also deplored the “over regulated” government as the root of all problems hobbling the Philippine bureaucracy. Under the ARTA Law, a simple transaction with a government agency shall be completed within three days. Complicated ones shall only take seven days and highly technical cases shall be resolved or decided whether approved or rejected within 20 days.

It was only last Aug. 5 when the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of RA 11032 came out and became effective. Ironically, the ARTA itself became a victim of red tape that took this long the issuance of its IRR.

“We hit the ground running when the IRR was issued and we rolled it out,” Belgica declared.

Barely two months into office, Belgica reported the ARTA has so far investigated the top five most “red-taped” government agencies that were identified no less than by President Duterte during his state of the nation address (SONA) last July before the 18th Congress. The five agencies in the President’s “horror” list of red tape are, the Land Transportation Office (LTO); the Pag-IBIG Fund; the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR); the Social Security System (SSS); and the Land Registration Authority (LRA).

For now though, Belgica reminded all national government agencies and local government units under the ARTA Law of President Dutert have until Dec. 6 this year to put up a Business One-Stop-Shop or B.O.S.S. Failure to do so makes them “ARTA-ble,” he punned his stern warning.

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