Failon Ngayon: Citizen's Charter

Posted at 09/10/12 7:10 PM

What takes less than five minutes in Naga almost takes five hours in Manila! Why is getting permits and certificates easier and more hassle-free in Naga City? FAILON NGAYON takes a look at the importance of the Citizen’s Charter and its implementation in cities all over the metro.

When was the last time that you visited your city’s municipal office to get documents like a birth certificate, a death certificate, a working permit or a business permit?

Long lines. People complaining and losing their cool. People waiting for hours and hours on end.

This is almost always the scene in city halls and municipal offices all over the metro. All these people are lining up to get different kinds of documents, and more often than not, they spend more time than they should just waiting.

In Naga City however, it’s a different story.

A birth certificate is done in three to five minutes, and sometimes even less. A Mayor’s permit takes 30 minutes or less. Sounds unusual for a government office, right? All this, thanks to the city's Citizen's Charter.

As Naga City Mayor John Bongat explained, the Citizen's Charter is somewhat like motivation for city hall employees to work better and more efficiently because not only does the Citizen's Charter indicate how long it should take to secure legal documents and permits, but it also pinpoints who is accountable, should anything go wrong. The charter makes dealings inside the city hall less prone to corruption and the timeline makes sure that the employees don’t waste the people’s time.

Back in Manila, Failon Ngayon met Joey Cabanag, who is looking to put up his own small business. He began applying in the morning and according to him, the process went smoothly, until it was time to claim the permit itself. Joey was told to come back in the afternoon because apparently, there was no one around to sign the permit.

When asked about this issue, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim himself was surprised and asked one of the heads of the Bureau of Permits to explain. According to Bureau of Permits Assistant Department Head Senen Tomada, there are at least four of them who are authorized to sign the permits, so they cannot say that there was no one around to sign.

Failon Ngayon also discovered that people were being charged P15 just for an application form. Mayor Lim was also not aware of this, he said.

It turned out that the fee for application forms was a city ordinance implemented during the time of former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza. However, according to the former mayor's Press Officer, Atienza was not responsible for the ordinance, as all he did was raise the fee implemented by another previous ordinance.

Lim said that the said ordinance would be removed.

The Citizen’s Charter is the result of a house bill that was passed in 2007. Republic Act 9485 or the "Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007" states that all government offices and agencies including local government units (LGU) and government owned or controlled corporations (GOCC) should have a charter.

While it may look good on paper, what matters more is how offices implement the charter. Unfortunately, this is where government units sometimes fail.

According to the Parañaque City Citizen’s Charter, it should only take more or less 39 minutes to get a working permit. However, it took one woman seven hours, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., to get her permit.

Lack of awareness

Unfortunately, many still do not know about the Citizen's Charter, and some offices do not heed it.

In Mandaluyong, the Citizen’s Charter seems to be fully implemented. People there have no complaints about the services of City Hall employees, and this is something that Mandaluyong City Mayor Benhur Abalos takes pride in.

Despite this, there still some barangay officials in Mandaluyong that said they do not fully understand what a Citizen's Charter is.

One of the main reasons why RA 9485 was passed is to reduce the occurrence of corruption in municipalities and government agencies.

In Quezon City, a Special Use Permit (SUP) is given to businesses and establishments that are "sensitive in nature." They say that it can be found in the Citizen’s Charter and is something required by the city's zoning ordinances.

According to "Max", an employee in the Quezon City area, he was tasked to go to the councillors' office because they are the ones responsible for handing out SUPs. The price that was asked of him as a whopping P2 million. As explained to Max, the P2 million is divided among the councillors, the Vice Mayor, and the Mayor so that they do not deny the approval of a certain business.

According to Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte however, there should not be any charges at all for an SUP.

The Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007 is states that all government offices, agencies, LGUs and GOCCs should have a Citizen’s Charter. Failure to comply is punishable by suspension and even dismissal. According to DILG Asec. Rolando Acosta, there are 123 agencies that do not have Citizen’s Charters.

Naga City was able to prove that the Citizen’s Charter can be followed to a tee. If they can do it in Naga, why not in all the other cities nationwide?

The Charter should come from the city Mayor, who should be able to stand as a leader and provide an example for transparency and efficiency as a public official.

CITIZEN'S CHARTER aired on Saturday, September 8, 2012.

You can catch Failon Ngayon every Saturday, 4:45 p.m. on ABS-CBN. Replays are aired every Sunday, 2:00pm on ANC.