Senate okays bill giving Duterte special powers to end red tape

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    THE Senate yesterday approved on third and final reading a bill granting President Duterte the authority to expedite the processing and issuance of national and local permits, licenses, and certifications in times of national emergencies such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.

    The approval came just hours after the President certified as urgent Senate Bill No. 1844, or “An Act Authorizing the President to Expedite the Processing and Issuance of National and Local Permits, Licenses, and Certifications.”

    No counterpart measure has been filed at the House but majority leader Martin Romualdez assured Malacañang that the House will pass its own anti-red tape bill.

    The President, in a letter to Senate President Vicente Sotto III, said he wants the measure passed to “facilitate economic activity, accelerate the socioeconomic recovery of the country, and ensure the prompt delivery of public services in times of a national emergency such as the present COVID-19 pandemic.”

    Under the measure, the President will have the authority to “accelerate and streamline regulatory processes and procedures for new and pending applications for permits, licenses, clearances, certifications, or authorizations.”

    The President shall also have the power to “suspend or remove, upon the determination of a competent body, any government official or employee performing acts contrary” to the intent of the bill.

    All 23 senators present during the hybrid session voted in the affirmative to pass SB 1844.

    The measure was principally authored by majority leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, along with Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senate president pro tempore Ralph Recto, minority leader Franklin Drilon, and Sen. Panfilo Lacson in response to President Duterte’s frustrations over the persistence of bureaucratic red tape.

    Zubiri said that with a strong bipartisan support, the bill went through the period of interpellation and amendment with absolutely no opposition, making it “the quickest bill I’ve ever passed.”

    “This is a good accompanying measure to the Ease of Doing Business. I think a lot of good will come from this,” said Zubiri, principal sponsor and author of the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018.

    “With this, I hope the President will feel emboldened to put an end to our culture of red tape, by recognizing his power to act on the ineptitude and incompetence of some of our officials and employees by removing them from government service,” he added.

    Romualdez, the chairman of the House committee on rules, said a bill proposing to fight persistent bureaucratic red tape by granting the President anti-red tape powers is being readied and will soon be filed.

    “We are readying a proposed law that would authorize the President to act expeditiously on the processing and issuance of national and local permits, licenses, and certifications,” he said.

    He urged all sectors to help the President in his campaign to put a stop to deep-rooted, systemic and systematic corruption in government.

    “The President is tired of continued corruption. He wants a legacy that genuine reforms are implemented under his term. He stressed that any delay in the release of business permits is tantamount to corruption,” he said. — With Jocelyn Montemayor and Wendell Vigilia