The existence of red tape is known to almost every Filipino that transacts with government offices, yet only a small percentage of them probably knows that a law exists to eliminate red tape and punish the culprits in perpetuating it. Congress enacted Republic Act No. 9485, also known as the “Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007”. If you want the longer title, it’s “An Act to Improve Efficiency in the Delivery of Government Service to the Public by Reducing Bureaucratic Red Tape, Preventing Graft and Corruption, and Providing Penalties Therefor“. Here’s a primer of R.A. 9485, which I first posted at the PELF.
What government agencies are covered under RA 9485?
All government offices and agencies are covered, including local government units and government-owned or -controlled corporations (GOCCs) that provide frontline services. However, those performing judicial, quasi-judicial and legislative functions are excluded from the coverage.
Who is a “fixer”?
Any individual, whether or not officially involved in the operation of a government office or agency, who has access to people working therein, and whether or not in collusion with them, facilitates speedy completion of transactions for pecuniary gain or any other advantage or consideration.
What are the liabilities of a fixer?
Administratively, the act of fixing and/or collusion with fixers in consideration of economic and/or other gain or advantage is considered a grave offense, punishable with a penalty of dismissal and perpetual disqualification from public service. In addition, the fixer shall be criminally liable and suffer the following penalties, at the discretion of the court:
- imprisonment not exceeding six (6) years, or
- a fine not less than Twenty Thousand Pesos (P20,000.00) but not more than Two Hundred Thousand Pesos (P200,000.00)
- or both fine and imprisonment
What happens if I apply for a permit or license, and the government agency sits on it, causing it to lapse?
Aside from the liabilities provided under the law, if a government office or agency fails to act on an application and/or request for renewal of a license, permit or authority subject for renewal within the prescribed period, said permit, license or authority shall automatically be extended until a decision or resolution is rendered on the application for renewal.
However, the automatic extension shall not apply when the permit, license, or authority covers activities which pose danger to public health, public safety, public morals or to public policy including, but not limited to, natural resource extraction activities.
What is the accountability of heads of offices or agencies under this law?
They shall be held accountable to the public in rendering fast, efficient, convenient and reliable service in their respective offices or agencies.
What is a “Citizen’s Charter”?
This is required from all covered agencies, a set of service standards in the form of information billboards which should be posted at the main entrance of offices or at the most conspicuous place, and in the form of published materials written either in English, Filipino, or in the local dialect, that detail:
- The procedure to obtain a particular service.
- The person/s responsible for each step.
- The maximum time to conclude the process.
- The document/s to be presented by the customer, if necessary
- The amount of fees, if necessary.
- The procedure for filing complaints.
What are the violations under the law and what are the corresponding penalties?
This law merely provides and administrative penalty, except fixers and those who collude with fixers, with a criminal liability discussed above. Of course, violators may be charged under other applicable laws.
Under the Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007, offenses are classified as:
Light offenses. The following penalties:
- First Offense – Thirty (30) days suspension without pay and mandatory attendance in Values Orientation Program.
- Second Offense – Three (3) months suspension without pay.
- Third Offense – Dismissal and perpetual disqualification from public service.
Grave offense. There is only one grave offense, that of fixing and/or collusion with fixers, punishable with a penalty of dismissal and perpetual disqualification from public service. There’s also a corresponding criminal penalty, as discussed above.
What acts are considered as light offenses?
The following are light offenses:
1. Refusal to accept application and/or request within the prescribed period or any document being submitted by a client.
2. Failure to act on an application and/or request or failure to refer back to the client a request which cannot be acted upon due to lack of requirement/s within the prescribed period.
3. Failure to attend to clients who are within the premises of the office or agency concerned prior to the end of official working hours and during
4. Failure to render frontline services within the prescribed period on any application and/or request without due cause.
5. Failure to give the client a written notice on the disapproval of an application or request.
6. Imposition of additional irrelevant requirements other than those listed in the first notice. An “irrevelant requirement” refers to any document or performance of an act not directly material to the resolution of the issues raised in the request or needed in the application submitted by the client.
Are the penalties limited to administrative liabilities? What about civil and criminal liabilities?
The finding of administrative liability does not bar the filing of criminal, civil or other related charges under existing laws arising from the same acts or omissions.
How can a co-respondent or co-accused be exempted or discharged from a case?
The law provides for immunity in favor of the public official or employee or any person having been charged with another under this law and who voluntarily gives information pertaining to an investigation or who willingly testifies therefore.
The exemption applies in the case/s where his/her information and testimony are given. The discharge may be granted and directed by the investigating body or court upon the application or petition of any of the respondent/accused-informant and before the termination of the investigation, provided that:
- (a) There is absolute necessity for the testimony of the respondent/accused-informant whose discharge is requested.
- (b) There is no other direct evidence available for the proper prosecution of the offense committed, except the testimony of said respondent/accused-informant.
- (c) The testimony of said respondent/accused-informant can be substantially corroborated in its material points.
- (d) The respondent/accused-informant has not been previously convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude; and
- (e) Said respondent/accused-informant does not appear to be the most guilty.
Evidence adduced in support of the discharge shall automatically form part of the records of the investigation. Should the investigating body or court deny the motion or request for discharge as a witness, his/her sworn statement shall be inadmissible as evidence.
What do you mean by “Frontline Service”?
It is the the process or transaction between clients and government offices or agencies involving applications for any privilege, right, permit, reward, license, concession, or for any modification, renewal or extension of the enumerated applications and/or requests which are acted upon in the ordinary course of business of the agency or office concerned.
With respect to accessing frontline services, what are the matters that must be adopted by all government offices and agencies?
(a) Acceptance of Applications and Request
- (1) All officers or employees shall accept written applications, requests, and/or documents being submitted by clients of the office or agencies.
- (2) The responsible officer or employee shall acknowledge receipt of such application and/or request by writing or printing clearly thereon his/her name, the unit where he/she is connected with, and the time and date of receipt.
- (3) The receiving officer or employee shall perform a preliminary assessment of the request so as to promote a more expeditious action on requests.
(b) Action of Offices
- (1) All applications and/or requests submitted shall be acted upon by the assigned officer or employee during the period stated in the Citizen’s Charter which shall not be longer than five working days in the case of simple transactions and ten (10) working days in the case of complex transactions from the date the request or application was received. Depending on the nature of the frontline services requested or the mandate of the office or agency under unusual circumstances, the maximum time prescribed above may be extended. For the extension due to nature of frontline services or the mandate of the office or agency concerned the period for the delivery of frontline services shall be indicated in the Citizen’s Charter. The office or agency concerned shall notify the requesting party in writing of the reason for the extension and the final date of release for the extension and the final date of release of the frontline service/s requested.
- (2) No application or request shall be returned to the client without appropriate action. In case an application or request is disapproved, the officer or employee who rendered the decision shall send a formal notice to the client within five working days from the receipt of the request and/or application, stating therein the reason for the disapproval including a list of specific requirement/s which the client failed to submit.
(c) Denial of Request for Access to Government Service
Any denial of request for access to government service shall be fully explained in writing, stating the name of the person making the denial and the grounds upon which such denial is based. Any denial of request is deemed to have been made with the permission or clearance from the highest authority having jurisdiction over the government office or agency concerned.
(d) Limitation of Signatories
The number of signatories in any document shall be limited to a maximum of five signatures which shall represent officers directly supervising the office or agency concerned.
(e) Adoption of Working Schedules to Serve Clients
Heads of offices and agencies which render frontline services shall adopt appropriate working schedules to ensure that all clients who are within their premises prior to the end of official working hours are attended to and served even during lunch break and after regular working hours.
(f) Identification Card
All employees transacting with the public shall be provided with an official identification card which should be visibly worn during office hours.
(g) Establishment of Public Assistance/Complaints Desk
Each office or agency shall establish a public assistance/complaints desk in all their offices.