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Red tape, drugs in Bistek-Belmonte city

Last year, President Rodrigo Duterte required all offices in the executive department of the government to reduce, or even eliminate the endless paperwork and lengthy processing procedures associated with transactions with the bureaucracy.  Earlier this week, a legislative enactment expanding the coverage of Duterte’s trailblazing anti-red tape measure was ready for the President’s signature. 

Many government agencies (the Land Transportation Office excluded) have complied with the President’s directive by reducing the number of days for the processing of documents.  In some agencies, documents are now processed in a few minutes. 

The renewal of documents with a government office should be a quick and simple process because all information about the applicant is already in the computerized data bank of the government office concerned. 

This should be particularly true for the payment of the annual professional tax collected by a city government—popularly called the professional tax receipt.  Since the PTR is an annual tax in a fixed amount imposed on all members of the same profession in the city, and considering that the tax itself has nothing to do with sensitive matters like, for example, running a commercial establishment or purchasing supplies for the bureaucracy, there should be no difficulty in paying the PTR.  As in all payment transactions, the same should be completed in minutes. 

Since the time of Quezon City Mayor 

Ismael Mathay, Jr. and during the tenure of his successor Feliciano Belmonte, Jr., one who renews his PTR at Quezon City Hall is simply asked to produce the previous year’s official receipt, or the serial number of the receipt, and pay the current tax.  Those who are unable to either produce the receipt or remember the serial number, can request the window clerk to check the office computer for the information.  This way, the transaction is consummated in minutes. 

Unfortunately, the situation deteriorated under the administration of Mayor Herbert “Bistek” Bautista. Representatives of taxpayers are now required to produce documentary authorization, which adds to the red tape, even if the transaction is simply a tax payment.  If the payment of a national income tax may be done by a representative without a written authorization from the taxpayer himself, there is no reason why it should be different for a local tax paid at Bautista’s city hall.

This year alone, additional requirements are being imposed by Quezon City Hall employees on one paying the annual PTR.  For instance, a lawyer renewing his PTR payment is now required to show documentary proof from the Integrated Bar of the Philippines that he is a lawyer.  The production of the original official receipt is now a requirement as well.  Those who do not have the original of the previous year’s official receipt are made to return, often after a day or more, on the lame excuse that the window clerk needs to verify the status of their PTR payments.

The window clerks have a uniform explanation for the additional red tape-- they have to be strict in the processing of the licenses of professionals operating in Quezon City.

What hogwash!  Since when did local government units like Bistek Bautista City exercise the power to process professional licenses?  That power is vested in the Professional Regulation Commission for professionals other than lawyers, and in the Supreme Court for the legal profession.

Moreover, payment of the PTR for lawyers is not evidence of membership in the Philippine bar.  A real lawyer is required to indicate in all court pleadings numerous other information to prove his status as a lawyer.  

 Besides, the PTR is not a license but a tax.  Why the payment of a tax in a fixed amount should be subjected to a tedious process in Quezon City, when it is otherwise in other cities, is a big mystery.

Since Bautista has dumped the Liberal Party and is now affiliated with President Duterte’s PDP-Laban Party, there is no excuse for him not to comply with the president’s campaign against red tape. 

The problem is aggravated by the heavy reliance Quezon City officials place on political propaganda to conceal the administrative incompetence of the family dynasties that have run the city, and that continue to run it today.

Speaking of propaganda, Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte announced last week that there is a need to address the drug problem in the city in all fronts.  What took her so long to realize that?

At the start of the Duterte administration, Mayor Bistek Bautista’s brother, Quezon City Councilor Hero Bautista, confessed to being a drug addict and took a leave from the city council, supposedly to undergo drug rehabilitation.  Why Hero Bautista did not resign from the city council outright is probably explained by his being the chairman of the city’s very powerful infrastructure committee. 

About a year later, Mayor Bautista was seen on live television mauling a Communist Chinese national who was caught in possession of narcotics at an anti-drug operation conducted near the Philcoa area of the city.  Why Bautista was not subjected to criminal or administrative charges for that act is not explained by the city government. 

A city mayor can be held administratively liable by the Office of the Ombudsman for beating up a suspect in the custody of his city’s policemen.  Administrative charges of this sort have no prescriptive period, and the old legal doctrine that “the re-election of the erring official erases all his past administrative liabilities” has been abandoned by the Supreme Court.

Those drug-related events in Quezon City occurred almost two years ago.  What took Vice Mayor Belmonte that long to realize that there is a drug menace plaguing Quezon City?

Joy Belmonte is seen as the next mayor of Quezon City. If that dreadful prospect does materialize, then Quezon City’s taxpayers are in for really awful times.

The Bautista and Belmonte political dynasties have dominated Quezon City since 2001.  That fact alone is a good reason for the city’s residents to press Congress to enact a law prohibiting political dynasties in public office.

Topics: President Rodrigo , Duterte , Land Transportation Office , Metro Manila , Quezon City , Opinion
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