Senator and Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography Christopher “Bong” Go said that the use of information and communications technology through E-governance will help eliminate red tape and corruption.
“Gamit ang teknolohiya, makikita ng publiko kung nasaan na ang papeles, sino ang humahawak, magkano ang babayaran sa isang permit, halimbawa, at gaano katagal ilalabas ang papeles. Hindi na pwedeng magbingi-bingihan, magbulag-bulagan at ‘yung patutulugin ang mga papeles. Hindi na dapat pahirapan ang pagkuha ng serbisyo mula sa gobyerno,” Go described.
Go added that “in an age where almost everything can be done online and through other digital platforms, the government must harness the power of information and communications technology to better serve its purpose and bring the government closer to the people.”
Go, however, warned that for E-governance to be a success, the transition should also be free of corruption particularly in determining the specifications needed and in the actual procurement of IT equipment as he cited issues plaguing the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation as an example.
During the first hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole held on August 4, PhilHealth president Ricardo Morales disclosed there are some 5,000 members aged 130 years in the agency’s database. Morales defended the need for PhilHealth’s IT projects which the Commission on Audit had flagged for irregularities, including the procurement of PhP734-million worth of equipment that had been not included in the original budget.
“The main solution to the systematic problem arise in a robust integrated and harmonized information management system, running a clean, complete, and updated membership database,” argued Morales.
The Senator, who authored Senate Bill No. 1738 or the E-Governance Act of 2020 which will facilitate the transition of government processes into the digital age, agrees that PhilHealth’s technological interventions can offer new ways to prevent, detect and prosecute corruption and may serve as an example to other public institutions. However, he cautions that the same interventions can also be misused to create new opportunities for fraud and corruption.
“While your efforts to initiate IT reforms are commendable, kailangan rin siguraduhin that the transition itself is free from corruption. Dahil kung magiging successful ang inyong initiative, magiging best practice ang tawag diyan, at gagayahin ng ibang ahensya sa pag-transition to e-governance. Pero kung sablay naman ‘yan at nababalot ng corruption, imbes na maging best practice kayo, magiging test case lang kayo ng Task Force laban sa corruption sa gobyerno,” Go said during the recent hearing.
Go firmly believes that digitalizing the delivery of public services can address the deeply rooted and systemic corruption plaguing government in addition to improving its responsiveness, effectiveness and efficiency.
The proposed measure shall mandate the establishment of an internal government network which will allow the national and local governments to share information, data and resources. It will likewise create online public service portals, an internal records system and a national directory of information on Philippine citizens and public officials, among others.
“Tulad ng sabi ng Pangulo, panahon na para mawala ang pangangailangan na pumila para mapagsilbihan ng gobyerno,” said Go.
The transition will be spearheaded by the Department of Information and Communications Technology which is the government body with the technical expertise to ensure the quality, security and reliability of ICT infrastructure and services. It shall supervise and regulate the establishment and operations of all pertinent infrastructure, systems and facilities.
If passed, the bill will allow Filipinos to directly access and request government information, documents and forms, with the exception of sensitive records pertaining to national security, via the internet anywhere and anytime through their small private gadgets.
Most importantly, Go highlighted that it will enable citizens to monitor the delivery of public services from start to end. Any delay in procedures will be traceable to the exact office and individuals.
“Armed with information, the public can demand their rights and exact accountability from the government, thereby reducing opportunities for corruption,” he said.
“We need to evolve–businesses are already transitioning to e-commerce and online transactions. Our education system is also championing blended learning. It is important for the government as a whole to expedite its transition as well,” Go further explained.
In the recent State of the Nation Address, President Rodrigo Duterte emphasized the need to prioritize measures in line with the transition to E-Governance.
“The national government shall lead the way in our transition to online systems. I reiterate my call for all government instrumentalities to implement systems that shall make physical queuing a thing of the past. Panahon na para mawala na ang pila para mapagsilbihan ang gobyerno nang walang kahirapan para sa tao,” the President said in his fifth SONA.
“The DILG, DBM, and the ARTA, along with all agencies and instrumentalities of government, are hereby directed to make possible services available online. We need to adjust to and adopt a paper-less type business and work performance. We need e-governance [to provide] our people with the services they need [from] the comfort of their homes or workplaces. It will enable our bureaucracy to better transition into in the ‘new normal’ and cut or minimize red tape,” the President also said.