We are all wrapped up with the problem of graft and corruption, as well we should. Yet, there is another problem as pernicious – government red tape, or simply red tape.  In fact, red tape is the breeding ground of graft and corruption.

Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary says the term red tape “comes from the red tape formerly used to bind legal documents in England.”  Today, the term means: “official routine or procedure marked by excessive complexity which results in delay or inaction.”

Red tape is such a terrible problem because it adversely affects anyone who has to transact business, small or big, with government, national or local.  Visit any government office.  You will likely find bundles and bundles of paper stacked up all over the place.  That is red tape.

When your application for a mayor’s business permit trudges through three dozen desks in three floors of the City Hall, you are going through a Calvary of red tape.  When the Securities and Exchange Commission takes three months to approve a simple amendment to your by-laws, you are going through a procedure marked by excessive complexity which results in delay. When your little office has to have a Plumbing Permit although there is absolutely no plumbing in your office, would you not call that red tape?

In June 2007, Congress enacted the Anti-Red Tape Law (Republic Act No. 9485).  A year later, in July 2008, the Civil Service Commission, mandated to enforce the law, issued the implementing rules and regulations under Resolution 08147.  This resolution was written in coordination with the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP), the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB), and the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission (PAGC), and after public consultations with various stakeholders.

Is it not ironic that, to implement the anti-red tape law, the Civil Service Commission had to create more red tape?

At any rate, the rules offer no incentives for government offices and agencies to cut red tape.  Why should a government agency simplify its procedures, which is the very source of sideline money for every employee?

Of course, the rules allow the harassed citizen to file a complaint.  But where can we find a citizen brave enough to sue an erring government official at the Ombudsman?

In the insurance industry, competition forces each company to cut red tape.  The insuring public will buy more insurance from the company that has little of no red tape at all.

But there is a glimmer of hope.  The other day, I read where red tape has been cut at the Customs Bureau.  Well and good. Let us hope that other government offices will follow.

As I said at the start, red tape is a British term.  How has England handled the problem?  Margaret Thatcher has been ranked with such great men as Disraeli, Pitt, Balfour, Churchill as one of the ten best Prime Ministers England ever had.

But her claim to fame was none of her tremendous achievement in the fields of diplomacy, foreign affairs, or national defense.

Her claim to fame was that she cut down government red tape.  Do we have a Margaret Thatcher in the horizon?  Sadly, we have none.


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