Processing time reduction and EO on FOI activated e-Commerce Law

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On June 30, 2016, President RodrigoDuterte stressed in his inaugural speech, “I direct all department secretaries and the heads of agencies to reduce requirements and the processing time of all applications, from the submission to release.” A few days after, the Presidential Communications Office said that an Executive Order (EO) is being drafted that would implement the proposed Freedom of Information (FOI) law. Processing time reduction and EO on FOI are very much connected to one another as their common critical success factor is greatly hinged on the automation of the service processes of all government offices through the use of information and communications technology (ICT). That means, it’s time for those offices (i.e., all departments, bureaus, offices and agencies of the government, as well as all government-owned and-controlled corporations) to computerize their internal operations if they haven’t done it yet to cope with these mandates. The good news, however, is that the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), by virtue of Republic Act (RA) 10844, will definitely help those offices to hasten the implementation of computerized information systems.

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Incidentally, automating the service processes of government offices means activation of the e-Commerce Law of 2000 or RA 8792. The objective of that law is to facilitate domestic and international dealings, transactions, arrangements, agreements, contracts and exchanges and storage of information through the utilization of ICT. To promote the universal use of electronic transaction in the government and general public, RA 8792 shall apply to any kind of data message and electronic document used in the context of commercial and noncommercial activities. As a simple definition, an electronic data message or electronic document is any electronic file providing information that is produced, transmitted, received or stored by electronic means. It is important to understand that electronic documents under RA 8792 shall have the legal effect, validity or enforceability as any other document or legal writing.

To comply with RA 8792 means facilitating the issuance of permits or licenses quickly and hastening the transaction with the government agencies which would accept payments and issue receipts in the form of electronic data messages or electronic documents. Henceforth, reducing the processing time of all applications from the submission to release is supported by the e-Commerce Law.

It is interesting to note that the e-Commerce Law requires government offices to use electronic data messages, electronic documents and electronic signatures within two (2) years from the date of its effectivity in 2000. When asked if Comelec is compliant with RA 8792, a senior legal officer said, “I disagree in the sense that I do not know that there was such compliance. If there is compliance, I should know… I did not hear of that in Comelec or from anyone here. I heard about it on my own because of our continuing legal education.”

Sometime in 2012, I interviewed former Commissioner Gus Lagman. He said that Comelec is like a “virgin forest” with so many things to do and improve. Aside from automating human resources management, accounting and other common office automation systems, Comm. Lagman commented, “Automating the election is not the only application that you can automate in Comelec. One of the recommendations I made was to automate the monitoring of election cases. Commissioners are assigned with election cases. Ni-ra-raffle yan. You have to know where this election case is. Kanino ba ito na-raffle? Kunwari kay Gus Lagman! Oh, when did he receive the documents? Is it still with him? So in other words, na-mo-monitor mo….”

Comm. Lagman added, “Side by side with the monitoring of cases, let us allow the electronic filing of cases. And the reason for that is…when you file an election case, you have to complete all the documents. Alam mo ‘yang documents na yan, minsan isang balikbayan box! You have to submit something like eleven (11) copies. Suppose ‘yung case mo is a barangay election case, and say that you are in Mindanao, you have to send 11 copies to Intramuros. Ang hirap, hindi ba? So sabi ko, we should allow electronic filing of cases. So, at least the guy, can just email it to us. And then kung kailangan na natin, if you want to see the documents, then we can just ask for a copy. Parang ganoon, noh!…Pero first, let’s go over the documents from electronic filing. That saves the filer… a lot!…They started when I was still there. That was assigned to Commissioner Lim as he is in charge of election adjudication.…That falls very much under e-Commerce Act. Kasi you are automating the services you provide the public.” Therefore, compliance with RA 8792 contributes to the reduction of processing time in serving the Filipinos and to the enhancement of employees productivity due to time savings in its internal operations.

The disclosure of public documents through the President’s EO on FOI is also supported by e-Commerce Law compliance. For instance, a financial statement of an agency or even any accounting-related information may be retrieved in no time when accessed through a computerized financial management system or when browsing the agency’s website. The public documents are just a click away!In 2014, Senator Grace Poe emphasized the need for the FOI bill to be passed and said, “This will institutionalize transparency in government, so that whoever is in power, from the barangay captain to the President, no one is allowed to keep information from the public, except for those things cited as exemptions if the FOI is enacted . . . Nagkaroon ng PDAF scandal kasi hindi ninyo alam ang nangyayari sa gobyerno.”

The directive of President Duterte to reduce the processing time of all applications from the submission to release and the expected enforcement of EO on FOI are two compelling forces that have awakened the inactive power of the e-Commerce Law. And firmly, “Change is Coming!”

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9 Comments

  1. sirs, etracs project po is not the PUP project. It is a project by a private company based in Cebu initiated thru an AusAID grant. Although free siya (i.e. you do not pay licenses for the software) it is only available thru grants or lgu to lgu sharing kaya hindi marami yung naka kaalam, only thru word of mouth. But you have to consider the project only started in 2008 and every year nag grow yung number of users. Unlike other projects na ina-outsource ng government ang focus po dito besides innovation ay sustainability, community building/sharing ideas at technology transfer, i.e. trainings are provided to empower LGU ITs with necessary skills to enhance and customize the system. For more info visit http://www.etracs.org.

  2. Perhaps, a team of Manila Times journalists should look into the compliances of government agencies with e-Commerce Law. Mananagot lahat sila kay Mayor Digong pag mabagal ang services nila!

  3. When will the PSA (NSO) improve their abysmally slow performance and do the work that they are mandated to do?. Documents have been filed with them and after many weeks and followup phone inquiries the applicant is told that additional copies are required.

    Also the PSA have frequently questioned the validly of Court Orders and have declined to implement the instructions on the grounds that they do not agree with the courts findings?

    Does the PSA have a greater authority than the Courts in that they can overturn a legitimate Order?

    We understand that the PSA’s function is to record and statistically report births/deaths/marriages/annulments/divorces and other matters of statistically national importance. It often takes several months to have a simple transaction recorded and officially documented.

    Courts and other official organisations allow 15 days to respond to an legal action but the PSA appear to be a law unto themselves. They take months and also request additional certified true copies (CTC’s) of all documents even when they are already holding at least 7 CTC copies. We cannot but think this is simply another delaying tactic to disguise their in house incompetency.

    Perhaps one of the regular Manila Times journalists can be assigned to investigate the PSA and it’s senior management’s authority to overturn, question or decline to implement a legitimate legal decision?

  4. ernie del rosario on

    These are all OK Nel but let’s please prioritize getting rid of the criminals inside Comelec and its foreign partner in the defective AES first plus their patrons outside the organization. By law/Constitution we will have the Barangay/SK election in October and in all appearances “business as usual” lang sa Comelec (except for the non-participation of 3 Comms). So in effect only 4 are left to manage the coming elections. In fact they will ask for addl budget daw of several billions Why ? Did they not budget this in the 2016 GAA ? Yung nagpatakbo (read: nagpasabog) ng 2016 automated election uli ang in charge ? Sila na naman ? Nakalimutan na ba yung 2016 election disaster for which they should be held accountable NOW ? Then there will be a Con-Con in January 2017 or the Barangay/SK and Con-Con elections will be synched. If the present set of Comelec top honchos will be the one to conduct the Con-Con election then we are risking the crucial Federalism initiative which is needed to replace the repeatedly and long proven failed Presidential system. The will of the people might again be frustrated. I know that a massive revamp of Comelec may be said to be impractical at this point but why not adjust the date of these two elections UNTIL AFTER said massive revamp is done and the organization is replaced by another set of Comelec Chairman and Commissioners and next level officials accountable in the series of 3 automated election disasters. Comelec is composed of some 5,000+ employees. I am sure the roles of the less than 15 or 20 top officials who will have to be replaced can be taken over by organic employees from these 5,000 insiders.

    • Nelson Celis on

      Hi Ernie! Yes of course, AES Watch’s 1st priority is to get rid of criminals inside Comelec and its foreign partner. The new Administration is very much aware of this critical issue. Drug-related problems and peace & order are being addressed first. Kaunting panahon na lang!

  5. Alan Mabuting on

    Sir may innovations po na pwedeng gamitin ang mga Local Government Units tulad po ng Enhanced Tax Revenue Assessment and Collection System (ETRACS). More or less 100 LGUs na po ang gumagamit nito at sana po ay mabigyang pansin ito ng media at ng National Government para isulong na gamitin ito sa lahat ng LGUs nationwide.. Malaking tulong po ito kasi libre po ang ETRACS at hindi na kailangan pang gumastos ng at least 10 million Pesos para magpa-develop na kadalasan naman nagagamit sa Corruption tapos sa huli wala naman napapakinabang Information Systems ang mga LGU.

    • ernie del rosario on

      With all due respect Alan, is this ETRACS the same system developed a long time ago by PUP (yata, many many years ago) ? But I might be totally wrong. If it is the same one or if ETRACS became available significantly many years ago and only 100 out of some 2000 LGUs (5%) up to the city/mun strata are using it today then there might be something happening in its roll out given that it is free. Of course this can be a good boost in the process improvement efforts of the LGUs but ETRACS may have to be looked into first. Maybe it only needs some upgrades to make it attractive to the rest of the LGUs. It is possible that there might also be some non-technology kind of resistance from the LGUs. You know what I mean.

    • Nelson Celis on

      Agree with you Sir Allan that ETRACS, and other innovative apps, may be used already by the rest of the LGUs. Ernie is also right in implying that some resisted to use it due to…you know what he meant! But the DICT will surely take care of implementing these apps whether an LGU would like it or not.

    • sirs, etracs project po is not the PUP project. It is a project by a private company based in Cebu initiated thru an AusAID grant. Although free siya (i.e. you do not pay licenses for the software) it is only available thru grants or lgu to lgu sharing kaya hindi marami yung naka kaalam, only thru word of mouth. But you have to consider the project only started in 2008 and every year nag grow yung number of users. Unlike other projects na ina-outsource ng government ang focus po dito besides innovation ay sustainability, community building/sharing ideas at technology transfer, i.e. trainings are provided to empower LGU ITs with necessary skills to enhance and customize the system. For more info visit http://www.etracs.org.