The BI is Making Ribbons out of Red Tape

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By Dong Maraya

The Republic of the Philippines suffers from widespread corruption. Means of corruption include graft, bribery, embezzlement, backdoor deals, nepotism, and patronage.

According to a World Bank study in 2008, corruption in the Philippines is considered to be the worst among East Asia’s leading economies and the country has sunk even lower among those seen to be lagging in governance reforms. The 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index published by global watchdog Transparency International, showed that the situation in the country had improved slightly but still remained serious.

Corruption exists in all levels of the government, especially among high-level civil servants. Companies generally have little confidence in the Philippine judicial system, and this is due to the allegedly incompetent court personnel, corruption and long delays of court cases.

Transparency International-Philippines said some of the factors that contributed to the Philippines’ slight jump are the improvement in government service, and cutting red tape.

Red tape refers to the rules that government personnel must follow to accomplish a task. Sometimes the governmental process seems cumbersome to us, especially when we want a quick answer. Many feel that the government establishes far too many rules or procedures with their numerous departments particularly their frontline personnel, which are closer to and more quickly responsive to the public.

The battle against red tape and inefficiency in our bureaucracy is never an easy task.  Red tape has long been embedded in our culture with Filipinos having to deal with voluminous requirements and seemingly endless processes with government agencies.

Eliminating red tape and averting graft and corruption has far-reaching benefits for our economy, such as cutting costs of doing business in the country which will in turn improve investor confidence and heighten our global competitiveness.

In the past numerous efforts were undertaken to curb red tape but these did not cause dramatic changes in public service. In some cases, red tape even intensified.

Delays in official transactions are breeding grounds and provide opportunities for corruption. Delays alienate people from their government aside from hiking transaction costs. Corruption makes the country poor and living in it is oppressive.

The Anti-Red Tape Act or RA 9475 of 2007 aims to promote efficiency and transparency in government with regard to the manner of transacting with the public by requiring each agency to simplify frontline service procedures, to formulate service standards to be observed in every transaction and make known these standards to the public.

The Anti-Red Tape Act required all government agencies to adopt and formulate a Citizen’s Charter. This refers to an official document, a service standard or a pledge, that communicates, in simple terms, information on the services provided by the government to its citizen’s. It describes the step by step procedures for availing a particular service and the guaranteed performance level that they may expect for that service.

Although the Bureau of Immigration (BI) has formulated a Citizen’s Charter of its own, Commissioner Siegfred B. Mison has moved anew to cut red tape in the agency’s processing of various alien documentations.Mison, in a recent operations order, directed concerned Bureau offices to strictly observe timelines in the processing of applications for visa conversion/extension and ACR I-Card issuance/renewal designed to expedite and facilitate the processing of said applications.Under the order, all concerned offices are directed to review, evaluate and indicate recommended action within a specific number of working days upon receipt, depending on the type of transaction.The BI Chief said his order to set timelines is aimed to improve, facilitate and expedite the processing of the applications.

All applications received by the Central Receiving Unit (CRU), upon making sure that all documents are complete and in accordance with existing checklists, must be transmitted to the concerned offices within the same working day of receipt.“There is a need to enhance the existing procedures and guidelines in the processing of these applications to eliminate bureaucratic red tape,“ he pointed out.Mison said there is also need some key reforms for the issuance and renewal of the Alien Certificate of Registration Identity Card (ACR I-Card) to avert graft and corrupt practices and improve the efficiency of delivery of such front-line services.He explained that, under the BI’s “Good guys in, Bad guys out” program, foreigners with bona-fide intention to apply for appropriate visa are presumed to be “good guys” which should be extended tourist and/or investment-friendly immigration services.

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