The Manila Times : Hopes for unity and a better life for all Filipinos after elections

By Jeremiah Belgica | The Manila Times

ON Monday, May 9, 2022, millions of Filipinos went out to exercise their right of suffrage and decide on who will be the nation's next leaders. It was truly a historic day in Philippine history where Filipinos displayed their great love for their country. The presumptive winners for this election is former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr. for president and former Davao City mayor Inday Sara Duterte-Carpio for vice president.

Both candidates ran under the banner of unity. This is similar to the call of the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) for the implementation of a whole-of-nation approach, which is also cited in Republic Act 11032, or the "Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018." The work against red tape and for ease of doing business should always be colorblind as to politics and should reach out to all citizens regardless of political lining or political alliances. Every one of us will benefit and will be affected by any gains toward ease of doing business in the country regardless of who is in charge of the administration. Needless to say, we should be united toward improving the country's ease of doing business and efficiency in government service. We believe that the problem of red tape and corruption in the government cannot be solved by a single agency. A problem this huge requires the combined strength of the government, private and public sectors, and the masses. In fact, we can even say that this problem is inter-administrational. So, we need the people themselves to be united in this common cause regardless of politics.

For ARTA's part, we have created the Whole-of-Government Reengineering Manual to guide agencies in assessing and reengineering their processes. We have also partnered with various private sector champions, volunteers from multisectoral groups, and even foreign governments. Last year, we also launched our Cartaravan, wherein ARTA officials travel to the various regions in the Philippines to raise awareness about anti-red tape and streamlining and make our services more accessible to more Filipinos.

All of these efforts are geared toward raising the standard of living of every Filipino. ARTA firmly believes that the country should have an honest and clean government, one that holds no space for red tape and corruption. When we are able to fix our government, this would also translate to better lives for the Filipino people. In fact, the Authority has conducted various entrapment operations leading to the arrest of fixers and other erring government staff. We have also filed cases against propagators of red tape. I have said before that red tape and corruption are like termites that, when left to persist, will erode the very foundation of government. Our best bet in fighting these problems is pushing for a transparent and accountable government.

Of course, ARTA has also been strongly pushing for more efficiency in government. We have launched several initiatives, including automation and streamlining initiatives and programs to ease backlogs in applications and complaints in agencies, that are all geared toward the delivery of quick and adequate services to every Filipino. As I have said before, the best gift that we can give our countrymen is the gift of time. When we allow people to wait on their applications and requests for weeks or stand in line for hours just to transact with the government, then we are doing them a grave disservice. Because the time that we wasted, they could have spent with their families or just resting at the comfort of their homes.

So now we see that there really should be no conflict among us because, once you set aside the ambitions and names of our candidates, all of us want the same thing: a smarter and better Philippines. Even all the other political slogans of the candidates: "Gobyernong Tapat, Angat Buhay Lahat; Tunay na Solusyon, Mabilis Umaksyon"; "Aayusin ang Gobyerno, Aayusin ang Buhay Mo"; "For God and Country, Panalo ang Mahirap, Panalo ang Pilipino"; and "Manggagawa Naman," among others, would not be realized without cutting bureaucracy and red tape, any of these aspirations will never be realized. It is probably providential that the message of the winning team is about unity because all of these aspirations can be achieved if we unite towards it.

All that we should do now is to continue working toward that goal. Regardless of the sitting president, if ARTA does not do its work, then the Filipino people will continue to suffer. Conversely, if the Authority continues working, despite the changes in the administration and the political field, then we will be able to reach more people, especially the marginalized sector and the working class, with our services.

Once again, I would like to thank all the presidential candidates for including the improvement of the country's ease of doing business and competitiveness in their platforms. I am hoping that the next administration will be able to ride on the momentum that we have created at ARTA in the past few years. Two weeks ago, we wrote about statesmanship and its connection to streamlining of government services. We believe that a true statesman would make a priority of streamlining and reengineering the nation, and so we would want to reiterate the same point.

I also extend my deepest gratitude to our visionary and once-in-a-generation leader President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, the true conductor of the train of reform, for signing RA 11032 which created ARTA. Through his vision and political will, more people have become aware of the problem of red tape and been empowered to call for better services from their government.

The author is the director general of the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA).