15 June 2022- My appointment as the Officer-in-Charge of the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) was made “in order to ensure the continuous and effective delivery of public service.” These are the words of Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea. We see this order as an affirmation that Republic Act No. 11032 or the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018, and the work that ARTA is doing, are vital in achieving our dream of a smarter and better Philippines. ARTA will pursue the programs and initiatives which we operationalized in order to have more streamlined, automated, and efficient government services.

My commitment to the Filipino public, in my capacity as ARTA OIC until 30 June 2022, is that the Authority will remain undeterred and will continue to perform its functions against bureaucratic red tape. I will ensure that our day-to-day operations will continue to run smooth and that the services that we provide will not be hampered as we perform this sacred duty to further improve the efficiency of government services.

In any endeavor, there are bound to be challenges. This is how we see the preventive suspension of five top ARTA officials. It should be noted that the Authority has always held high regard for the law, so our officials–including Secretary Jeremiah B. Belgica, Undersecretary Eduardo V. Bringas (Deputy Director General for Legal), Legal Director Melamy A. Salvadora-Asperin, Legal Division Chief Sheryl Pura Sumagui, and former Legal Director Jedrek C. Ng–immediately complied with the preventive suspension order of the Office of the Ombudsman.

We maintain that the said officials were merely implementing the automatic approval provision of R.A. 11032. This game-changing provision has fast-tracked the release of permits, licenses, clearances, and authorizations for various projects that benefited the country. This also serves as a measure to prevent backlogs of applications and requests from accumulating in government offices. To date, at least 8,510 people have benefited from the automatic approval provision.

I must admit, though, that the authority of ARTA to implement the automatic approval provision of the law has now been limited by the final and executory Resolution of the Secretary of Justice in an arbitration case brought by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) who ruled that ARTA has no jurisdiction over the NTC’s quasi-judicial function of issuing telecommunications franchises. ARTA will have to comply or abide by that Resolution until it is reversed or set aside by higher authorities, either by executive, judicial, or legislative action.

We reiterate our full faith in the majesty of the laws and the institutions, particularly with the Office of the Ombudsman, to resolve the case strictly on the merits and in accordance with due process of law.