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They say that patience is a virtue but this should not apply to access to government services. In recognition of the reality that dealing with government offices has become an arduous task often associated with delays, slow feedback and red tape, Republic Act (RA) 6713, also known as the “Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees” declares it a state policy to promote a high standard of ethics in public service. This includes the provision of timely, efficient and relevant service by public officials and employees.

Crucial to this is the duty to be responsive to letters and requests. Thus, the law mandates that in the performance of their duties, all public officials and employees are under obligation to respond to letters, telegrams or other means of communications sent by the public within 15 working days from receipt thereof. The reply must contain the action taken on the request.

A more recent law, RA 11032 or “An Act Promoting Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery,” assures better efficiency and response time from government agencies by providing stricter timetables and stiffer penalties for erring officials and employees.

The law requires the assigned officer or employee to act upon a simple transaction within three days, seven days for complicated transactions and twenty days for highly technical transactions. The employee receiving the applications and/or request must preliminarily examine the same, assign an identifying number to the request, and duly receive the document.

The maximum time prescribed above may be extended only once for the same number of days. Prior to the lapse of the processing time, the office or agency shall notify the requesting party in writing to inform him/her as to why the extension was necessary and of the final date of release of the service requested.

Since delay on the part of the government office involved should not operate to prejudice the applicant, the office’s failure to approve or disapprove an original application or request for issuance of license clearance permit certification or authorization within the prescribe deadline will result in the application or request being approved. This presumes that all required documents have been submitted and all required fees have been paid.

For local government units (LGU), any application or request for license, clearance permit, certification or authorization requiring the approval of the Sangguniang Bayan, Panglungsod or Panlalawigan, must be acted upon within 45 days, subject to an extension of 20 days when proper. LGU must also introduce a single unified business application form to cover all related applications, i.e., local taxes and clearances, building clearance, sanitary permit, zoning clearance, and other specific LGU requirements, including fire clearance from the Bureau of Fire Protection.

To further promote efficiency, the number of signatories in applications for licenses, clearances, permits, certifications and authorizations has been reduced from five to now, only three signatories. The new law also mandates the recognition of electronic signatures.

Erring public officials and employees may be suspended on the first offense and dismissed from service on the second offense. Additionally, for second time offenders, the offender may face imprisonment of six months to one year, as well as perpetual disqualification from public office and forfeiture of retirement benefits.

It is often said that justice delayed is justice denied. The same can be said of public service. Hence, I hope my dear readers are now well versed on their rights when transacting with government offices and public servants are reminded of their duties to act promptly and diligently on the requests and applications filed in their offices.

Email: cabdo@divinalaw.com

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