Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri on Thursday nudged the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) to shape up after President Rodrigo Duterte met with Congress leaders to improve the ease of doing business law in the country.
"If the President truly has mentioned about his frustrations in the ease of doing business, that is a slap to our face. Not only you but also to me, being the author of the law that we made two years ago with very, very strict penalties and very, very strict provisions," Zubiri told ARTA director general Jeremiah Belgica in a Senate budget hearing.
"You have to start being the enforcer that you're supposed to be, the bruiser, the guide that they are afraid of, the bogeyman," he added.
Zubiri underscored that ARTA was made an attached agency under the Office of the President so that it could swiftly report and act against red tape. He said the agency should be actively coordinating at least with the Executive Secretary.
"We placed you in that pedestal so that you will be able to report directly to the President. That was the idea," he said.
Belgica mentioned that ARTA has received 3,924 complaints since its creation in 2018—a big chunk of which involves failure of government agencies to process transactions on time.
Leading ARTA's list of most complained agencies were the Bureau of Internal Revenue, local government units, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, Social Security System, and Department of Labor and Employment.
The senators, however, were surprised that only seven cases had actually been filed.
"Your complaints list earlier was all the thousands but so far, with all due respect seven cases lang ang filed. Obviously, siguro kaya matapang itong mga tarantadong ito 'di gumagalaw, siguro 'di natatakot," Zubiri said.
"I think more cases should be filed against these individuals, particularly other national government agencies, hindi lang LGUs... We have to fast-track that. Seven cases is not impressive," he added.
Belgica explained that many of the complaints were actually addressed by concerned government agencies, so that only a few end up with legal consequences.
"Not all of them graduate to formal investigation stage kasi marami po sa kanila actually is nagre-respond po," he said.
"We are also a bit challenged when it comes to manpower. We only have four lawyers in our disposal but we are going to do our best to file more cases," he added.
Further, he said the COVID-19 pandemic also affected ARTA's hearings and filing of cases as such had been suspended in March in a bid to prioritize other efforts on streamlining government processes, its chief said.
Belgica added that nine more cases are ready to be filed now since ARTA's formal investigation of complaints have already resumed since June 15.
Under the National Expenditure Program for 2021, P146 million shall be allocated for ARTA—18 percent lower than its P172 million budget under the 2020 General Appropriations Act. — BM, GMA News