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Finally, good sense

Last week, the House of Representatives, on second reading, approved the measure establishing a national identification system.

This is legislation long overdue.  It makes infinitely good sense, and we hope the Senate concurs with the House and passes the bill within this year, so that it becomes law upon signature of the President.

The idea of having a national ID has been proposed for the last 20 years or so, but has always been met with resistance from elements of the Left.  It would be an invasion of privacy; it would defile individual human rights, so it has been argued.  The same arguments have been repeated when the present Congress revived the idea, with no less than former president, now Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo sponsoring one of the bills for a single ID system.  The chairperson of the House Committee on Population and Family Relations, Laguna 3rd district Rep. Sol Aragones, finally steered it through committee hearings and last Wednesday, through plenary discussions, with able assist from Negros Oriental’s Rep. Arnulfo Teves.

The NID will thus do away with so many IDs which the man on the street has to produce for several transactions with government, or even simple identification requirements for security purposes.  Even banks require two government-issued IDs to open a savings deposit account.  What if you are not a driver with a plastic license, or worse, with a piece of paper from LTO because the plastic license is yet to be issued?  What if you do not have a passport?  What if you are not employed and have yet no SSS ID?  Or not yet a voter and thus have no Comelec ID?  You would have to go to the post office and apply for a postal ID, but that gives you just one government-issued ID.  Our obsolete “cedula,” or residence certificate, inherited from the Spanish colonials when even photography was non-existent, will not do.

The present system, or surfeit of systems, is simply insane.

Now, good sense has prevailed, perhaps necessitated by the awareness that these are times when the evils of terrorism require a workable system of singular national identification.

For reasons of security as well as convenience,  the NID is an idea whose time has long come, yet still, as the trite saying goes, “better late than never.”

* * * 

The chairman of the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs, Rep. Ace Barbers of Surigao, after several “explosive” hearings on the 6.4-billion shabu haul smuggled past the international port, has come out with a recommendation to “abolish” the Bureau of Customs. 

Barbers wants it replaced by a new agency with “no history of corruption,” which means an entirely new set of employees all the way up to officials. 

The recommendation makes good sense.  As previously written in this space, we have been replacing commissioner after commissioner, and reshuffling examiners and directors since time immemorial, but BoC remains the poster agency of government corruption.

“Grandes males, grandes remedios,” our conquistadores would say.  It’s like Alexander the Great taking his sword and cutting the Gordian Knot, rather than going through the contortions of untangling the “mess.”

Focus on the systems, as we suggested in a recent article on this space.  Barbers also does not foreclose “privatization of non-sovereign functions,” and wants the Department of Finance to do an extensive study.

For starters, as our previous article suggested, revert to pre-inspection at ports of origin.  There are several reputable firms that do this, from the well-known SGS or Societe Generale de Surveillance, to Bureau Veritas, Cotecna, Intertek and Omni, as far as I recall.  The pre-inspection fees, which will be shouldered by the importers, would be worth it, as against all the aggravation and “hidden costs” of transacting with corrupt “Aduana” personnel and other port “pakialameros.”

And while they are it, the Department of Finance should also study the systems in the Bureau of Internal Revenue, our largest revenue-generating bureaucratic machine.

Simplify, simplify, simplify should be the mantra in reengineering government systems.

Minimize discretion on the part of employees and officials, especially in this age when computerization is everything and everywhere. Discretion, it must be noted, is the spawning ground of corruption.  Remove it, or minimize it to the barest minimum, and corruption will find difficulty thriving.

Think of gross taxation.  Think of “presumptive” incomes, rather than a convolution of loopholes that makes cheating government rife, with the assistance of tax “experts” and accountants in collusion with BIR examiners.

* * *

We are told that there is a private sector proposal to design and build a National Government Center in the Clark Green City. 

We have proposed in this space the establishment of a new national government center outside congested Metro Manila, where government agencies are scattered throughout the metropolis, often in rented spaces.

Again, this is an idea whose time has come, and as written in a previous column where we extolled Secretary Art Tugade’s “bold” move to transfer DoTr’s headquarters in Clark from its rented space in Ortigas Avenue across De La Salle, it can be started under President Duterte.

The private sector proposal calls for some form of PPP, where government’s equity is land, upon which a new capital which would house all national government agencies can be master-planned and built using private capital, and the surrounding commercial centers shall be the private proponent’s payback.  

Again, that makes good sense, and is worth considering.

Topics: House of Representatives , National identification system , Finally , good sense
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