August 14, 2019
WHATEVER happened to the ePhilippines launched 19 years ago, in the year 2000? Did it attain its vision? If it prospered, how far did it go? These questions are very much related to the statement of President Duterte in his fourth SONA: “I reiterate my government. My directive to the government and instrumentalities, including the LGUs and the government corporations…..simplify.”
Is ePhilippines new to you? It might sound familiar to some, especially for those who are following the progress of our government offices’ compliance with Republic Act 8792 or the “eCommerce Law of 2000.” The vision of ePhilippines is to have an electronically enabled society where the citizens live in an environment that will encourage and promote access to technologies, providing quality education, efficient government service, greater sources of livelihood, and, ultimately, a better way of life (http://www.itecc.gov.ph/ephilippines.htm).
Corollary to the President’s statement then: “Last year…I signed the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act (RA 11032)…to improve service delivery and fight corruption…However, much [has] to be done in ensuring our responsiveness to the people’s needs. Based on complaints received by the Contact Center [ng] Bayan…the LTO, SSS, BIR, LRA, and Pag-IBIG are the top five agencies that need to drastically improve their service…You can do it electronically. You do not have to go to the office.” What happened since 2000? Our President is talking about electronic transactions or doing business via electronic means for an efficient government service as envisioned years back.
Let’s travel back when the eCommerce Law was enacted in June 2000 and figure out its objective. The aim of RA 8792 is to facilitate domestic and international dealings, transactions, arrangements, agreements, contracts and exchanges and storage of information through the utilization of electronic, optical and similar medium, mode, instrumentality and technology to recognize the authenticity and reliability of electronic documents related to such activities and to promote the universal use of electronic transaction in the government and general public. It is fundamentally patterned after the UN Commission on International Trade Law’s Model Law on Electronic Commerce to maintain consistency with the other UN member states for international harmonization of state policies.
As stipulated in Section 29 of RA 8792, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is to direct and supervise the promotion and development of electronic commerce in the Country. And in Section 27, all departments, bureaus, offices and agencies of the government, as well as all government-owned and-controlled corporations, shall use electronic data messages, electronic documents and electronic signatures within two years from the date of effectivity (i.e., up to 2002) and shall:
– Accept the creation, filing or retention of such documents in the form of electronic data messages or electronic documents;
– Issue permits, licenses, or approval in the form of electronic data messages or electronic documents;
– Require and/or accept payments, and issue receipts acknowledging such payments, through systems using electronic data messages or electronic documents;
– Transact the government business and/or perform governmental functions using electronic data messages or electronic documents, and for the purpose, are authorized to adopt and promulgate, after appropriate public hearing and with due publication in newspapers of general circulation, the appropriate rules, regulations, or guidelines, to, among others.
After a month, the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 8792 was digitally signed on July 14, 2000 by DTI, Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). To provide focused leadership in the implementation of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) policies, Executive Order 264 signed in July 2000, merged the National Information Technology Council (EO 190, July 1994) and the Electronic Commerce Promotion Council (EO 468, February 1998) to form the Information Technology and Electronic Commerce Council (ITECC) headed by the DTI, which has evolved into what is now the DICT. In January 2001, EO 18 was signed by amending EO 264, thereby making the president as chairman of ITECC and DTI as co-chairman.
A year later, acting on the memorandum dated June 18, 2001 of the committee on the revision of the rules of court to draft the rules on the E-Commerce Act, the Supreme Court issued AM 01-7-01-SC, otherwise known as the “Rules on Electronic Evidence,” which took effect on Aug. 1, 2001.
To comply with RA 8792 within two years, the quarterly performance report of the congressional oversight committee on the e-Commerce Law revealed the top government agencies that were e-Commerce ready — the BIR, BoC, NSO, DoE, LTRFB, Tesda, DILG, SSS, DTI, PDIC, DOLE, PNP, DPWH, NBI, DSWD, PhilHealth, etc. Ironically, in spite of being the topnotchers in 2002, the BIR and SSS were among the top five agencies named by President Duterte that needed to improve their services.
What about the other government offices that were not e-Commerce ready in 2002? Not to hinder the implementation of their e-Commerce projects, the e-Government fund of P1 billion a year was institutionalized starting in year 2003. Then ITECC was abolished (EO 334, July 2004) and replaced by the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) under the Office of the President.
Collaborating with the Philippine Computer Society, the CICT crafted its Government Information Systems Plan in 2006 identifying the national broadband infrastructure as the top priority project. That could have been the start of the fast and low-cost internet connectivity had it not been tainted by the ZTE scandal.
(To be continued)
Catch the talk of the author tomorrow at the 2019 ISACA Annual Conference (https://isaca-manila.org/conference/2019-conference-program) — “IT Governance in the government offices: Reality or not”?
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