Senate panel debates red-tape curtailment powers beyond emergency period


A SENATE committee on Tuesday weighed the President’s legal authority to expedite the issuance of permits and sanction officials who fail to do so in deliberations over a bill seeking to endow the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) with the power to issue subpoenas or find respondents in contempt.

The Committee on Civil Service, Government Reorganization and Professional Regulation was discussing Senate Bill No. 1844, and how ARTA’s powers stem from Presidential authority.

The bill states that the President has sufficient power to suspend and dismiss government officials for unjustifiably blocking the progress of applications, but minority senators sought to clarify whether such powers apply only to states of emergency.

“This bill is a recognition of that executive power, except we have given him the power to suspend licenses, which may be pursuant to certain laws, just to suspend temporarily during the period of emergency,” Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon said.

The bill also allows the President to suspend or waive requirements in securing documents at times of emergency.

In its position paper, ARTA proposed the grant of subpoena and contempt powers already exercised by other constitutional bodies.

The ARTA needs to “make the bureaucracy effective. It’s not a law and order problem, it’s not a matter of making ARTA a quasi-judicial body, power to issue subpoena, cite contempt, employ underground agents, assets,” Mr. Drilon said.

Sa akin, ang ARTA ay dapat tumulong sa bureaucracy (In my view, ARTA is there to help make the bureaucracy more effective),” he aid.

Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian expressed support for the grant of powers to ARTA.

“The creation of ARTA is a good step in fighting red tape… without giving him the right power and tools, it will be inutile,” he said during the hearing.

“That’s why, I’ve read the position paper of ARTA and I agree on their recommendations especially giving them subpoena and contempt powers.”

The measure was filed after President Rodrigo R. Duterte last week consulted Congressional leaders on amendments to the Ease of Doing Business Law.

The American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (AmCham) said it recommends a sunset clause to ensure policy continuity should the state of emergency be lifted.

“We’re concerned about the sunset because hopefully, the state of emergency will end sooner or later, but what is the accomplishment of having suspended something during the state of emergency that doesn’t continue,” AmCham Senior Advisor John D. Forbes said in the hearing. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

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