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Leading the Charge Against Red Tape


Consider him the nemesis of red tape. After all, Secretary Ernesto “Nes” V. Perez of the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) is at the forefront of efforts to promote integrity, accountability, proper management of public affairs and public property as well as to establish effective practices, aimed at efficient turnaround of the delivery of government services, enhancement of bureaucratic efficiency, and the prevention of graft and corruption in government.

Perez, who is at the helm of ARTA as director general, has been given the unenviable task of ensuring the transformation of the way government services are delivered through the wholeof-nation approach, innovation, and good regulatory practices, in order to ensure bureaucratic efficiency. In short, he has become the face of government efforts to reduce red tape and expedite both business- and nonbusinessrelated transactions in government.


In its five years of existence, ARTA has become the lead agency in the fight against red tape and efforts to improve government transactions. No less than President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. has said that during this short period of time, “the men and women of ARTA have definitely changed the way we serve in government. It is possible to do things now to empower the improvement of processes and make transactions easier and more convenient for our clients, the Filipino people.”

Perez, however, is quick to deflect credit for all the efforts toward good governance in general and fighting red tape in particular. “The fight against red tape is really not new,” he stresses. “It did not start with the creation of the ARTA.”

Indeed, there is the Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007, which used to be implemented by the Civil Service Commission (CSC). But during the previous administration, President Rodrigo Duterte saw the need to give more teeth to government in implementing the law, to have a primary agency in charge of implementing the law.

“Being the first appointed employee of this agency, of course I could proudly claim that I know the ins and outs of the agency. I helped draft the implementing rules and regulations [for the law that created ARTA]. I also prepared the [first] budget, so that barely a week after appointment of the first director general on July 9, 2019, the implementing rules and regulations were approved, with the concurrence of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the CSC as mandated by law,” Perez reveals.

Perez later became the ARTA Deputy Director General (DDG) for Legal, and then for Operations. “From DDG for operations, the president promoted me as director general, or head of this agency,” he continues. “Being part of ARTA from the very beginning gave me an advantage over any other applicant. I didn’t need any transition period. I knew the people. I knew “He thought it was best to amend the law. Thus, during his term, Republic Act No. (RA) 11032 or the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act was enacted. This law created ARTA, placing it directly under the Office of the President to implement the national policy on red tape and ease of doing business. He thought it was best to have an agency directly under the Office of the President to really be focusing on just fighting red tape and of course corruption in the process,” Perez explains.

Unlike the CSC which has many other programs, this time, ARTA’s focus really is to fight red tape and to improve the way business is done in the country.


To say that Perez embodies ARTA is no exaggeration. His journey from being the agency’s first employee to its top official reflects just how important a role he has played at ARTA.

“Being the first appointed employee of this agency, of course I could proudly claim that I know the ins and outs of the agency. I helped draft the implementing rules and regulations [for the law that created ARTA]. I also prepared the [first] budget, so that barely a week after appointment of the first director general on July 9, 2019, the implementing rules and regulations were approved, with the concurrence of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the CSC as mandated by law,” Perez reveals.

Perez later became the ARTA Deputy Director General (DDG) for Legal, and then for Operations. “From DDG for operations, the president promoted me as director general, or head of this agency,” he continues. “Being part of ARTA from the very beginning gave me an advantage over any other applicant. I didn’t need any transition period. I knew the people. I knew the agency’s mandate by heart. I already knew how the agency should operate.”

He took his oath of office and took the helm of the agency on November 14, 2022, almost four years after he became ARTA Employee Number One.


Prior to being part of ARTA, Perez had served as an Assistant Secretary of the DTI, heading the Consumer Protection Group (CPG). “I can rightfully claim being appointed based on merit,” he declares. “I had no connections [to people in the inner circles of government]. I could not claim that I had the prominence or the wealth [that could have opened doors for me] to be given the opportunity to serve in a high position, one needing presidential appointment. The president [President Duterte] did not know me personally.”

As DTI-CPG head, Perez concurrently served as the OIC Director of the Bureau of Philippine Standards. In this capacity, he spearheaded the development of over a hundred new standards and the revision of 151 national standards to align such with the good regulatory practices of the World Trade Organization (WTO), and international standards of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). The ISO and IEC work together to develop, maintain, and promote standards in the field of science and technology.

Perez’s intellectual gifts were nurtured under the public school system. He earned his degree in Business Administration, major in Accountancy, at the University of the Philippines Visayas (UPV) after he finished his secondary education at the same institution’s high school department as the class salutatorian.

The certified public accountant later on studied law at the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU), after which he passed the 1986 bar exams as among the top 15 passers.

After almost three decades of practicing law, Perez had a comfortable life and was assured of being able to give his children quality education. However, he felt that there was something missing. “There was this urge [to try something else], especially when I was attending court hearings,” he reveals. “I realized that I was not getting any younger when I was appearing before judges who were younger than I was.”

Perez took the above “as a go signal that perhaps I could try government service. There was that urge to serve.”

The opportunity to serve, however, did not come overnight. When it finally came in the form of his appointment to the DTI in 1987, Perez proved himself worthy.


despite being one of the newest government agencies, is tasked with bringing about significant changes in the delivery of government services. In sum, the agency’s mission is to transform the way the government serves and enable citizens to benefit from good regulatory services and streamlined processes; and to implement the national policy on red tape and ease of doing business.

This clear mandate, coupled with Perez’s strict adhesion to ARTA’s vision of having a streamlined and digitalized Philippine bureaucracy for an effective and efficient service delivery, have provided the agency’s leadership with a clear direction to pursue.

“I always believe that when we do government services, these should not only be done under a whole-of-government approach, but under a whole-of-nation approach,” Perez says. “All stakeholders should be involved. With this, I mean not only government agencies, but even the private stakeholders who have real experience on the ground, so that we are able to validate whatever reports that we receive from government agencies.”

Perez encourages stakeholder engagement, from both the private and public sectors, by meeting with business organizations, aside from working with other government agencies. “So whenever we call for meetings involving a particular initiative or concern, I would always encourage our staff to not just involve the government agencies concerned, but even the private stakeholders who are directly or indirectly affected by the proposed regulation or initiative.”

“The reason being that I want that actions [to] be done fast,” Perez underscores. He says that the best way to validate reports by government agencies is to engage the affected stakeholder in a meeting, so that whatever report that is given by a government agency can be responded to immediately.

“I find that [acting on concerns immediately] very effective,” the amiable leader says. “Because in ARTA we do not just want to do things fast, we would like to make a difference in government service. After all, ARTA’s vision is to bring about a Philippine government that is clean, efficient, just, technologyenabled, and people-centered.”


Perez describes ARTA as “that agency which makes sure that other agencies comply with the Ease of Doing Business Law. It not only has the mandate to enable and capacitate agents to comply with the law, but also that mandate of investigating and filing of charges against those in violation of such.”

ARTA’s efforts focusing on streamlining, digitalizing, and enhancing government processes have made all the difference. For instance, it was instrumental in helping various local government units (LGUs) across the country to set up their respective electronic Business One-Stop Shop (eBOSS). With the benefits these LGUs have reaped from such, Perez is hopeful that more and more LGUs will “set up and operationalize their electronic business one-stop shops because they are assured that once they’re able to set up, it’ll increase their business registration and it will also increase their revenue collections.”

ARTA is also actively working to realize the National Policy on Regulatory Management System (NPRMS), which aims to lay down a shared framework for effective regulatory practices and good enforcement and compliance strategies. It is working to fully operationalize the Philippine Business Regulations Information System (PBRIS), which will capacitate all government agencies to upload all the regulations that they implement into a system accessible to any government agency as well as the public. This is expected to avoid overlapping and conflicts in regulations, as well as to make available related information to the public. Meanwhile, the Anti-Red Tape Electronic Management Information System (ARTEMIS) will enable government agencies to upload their Citizen’s Charter (CC) to an online database, so that the public will have a clear idea of all the services that these agencies render to the public. This will also allow the office to monitor the compliance of these agencies in posting and updating their CCs.

“We also would like to have the Report Card Survey 2.0 (RCS 2.0) be fully operationalized, as it will capacitate not only agencies to comply with the requirements of the Ease of Doing Business Law, but also capacitate the public by giving them a way of rating the agencies with regard to the kind of service that they got from that agency,” Perez adds.

RCS 2.0 evaluates the service delivery of government offices nationwide through gathering feedback from the transacting public regarding the covered agencies’ adherence to RA 11032.

ARTA is also closely working with other government agencies, private groups, and even educational institutions in its fight against red tape. Just recently, ARTA and the CSC signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) which defines and delineates the roles of the two agencies in the implementation of RA 11032. Among others, the MOA touched on the establishment of an Anti-Red Tape Division (ARTD) at the CSC Central Office and roll out of CSC Anti-Red Tape Units (ARTU) across CSC regional offices. ARTA also signed a number of memoranda of agreement with the University of the Philippines-National College of Public Administration and Governance (UP-NCPAG) to strengthen collaboration in improving bureaucratic regulations in the country, as seen from the perspective of members of the academe.

ARTA also held its first-ever regional Ease of Doing Business Summit in Cebu City. Carrying the theme "Philippines for a Better Business Enabling Environment," the event aimed to deepen the knowledge of those in the regions on the Ease of Doing Business Law for proper implementation of its mandates that will in turn attract more investors and build closer ties with private organizations and government agencies. During the said event, Perez underscored that “ARTA, with unwavering dedication, is actively working to address the skepticism and concerns often associated with the government. Our goal is to shift the perception of regulations and services from being seen as obstacles to becoming facilitators of success.”


Consistent with his role of simplifying government transactions and promoting transparency, Perez goes about his job in a simple yet efficient manner. “I’m a very simple person. I have no comments about protocol. Anybody who has a concern or a question can come here [to my office] anytime. I have an open door policy, and will really appreciate if people will tell me immediately what’s wrong with me, what’s the concern, instead of waiting for me to implement something, which I believe is wrong or irregular. That’s why I encourage my people to be open with me just as I’d like to be transparent and open with them,” he says.

“I try to be as early as possible, try to be on time. As much as possible, I would like to be the first and the last person to be in the office. And of course, I lead by example,” he continues. “I start my day [at the office] by going around, meeting with my staff to find out directly from them any concern that needs my immediate attention. Then I attend meetings and go over documents I have to read and sign. In the evening, I also would like to see if there’s still people around before I go home.”

Work does not end on Friday for Perez. “Usually, weekends give me the free time to reflect on what I have done in the past week. And Saturday morning or even Sunday morning is the effective time for me to give out instructions, reminders about things that we were supposed to do last week, which we were not able to do. So I will remind them, send them messages to highlight or to emphasize things that we have to do the following week.”


It goes without saying that the one leading the charge against red tape should have an unblemished record. “I can claim, and proudly so, that I have not been involved in any issue related to graft or corruption. The moment I decided to join government service, I totally gave up my law practice. And I think, this should be true for anyone who is joining government. They should dissociate themselves from any private business or concern at all, so that there will be no issue on graft, corruption or favoring anyone when in government service,” he declares.

Dedication to duty and righteousness are other traits Perez puts a premium on. “When in government service, you have to devote yourself full-time, 24/7. And you have to make sacrifices. You sometimes have to sacrifice your personal life. Because when you, join government service, there’s no more private life. You prioritize government service,” he stresses.

“Also, I always believe in righteousness. I always believe that when you do things right, you can never go wrong. People will not find anything against you if you remain righteous. I apply this not only to my personal life, but even to my public life. So, I know that being in this esteemed position, people will be looking for faults, looking for my inefficiency on my part. So I assure the public that I just want to do things right,” he adds.

“I want to do things fast because to me, time is of the essence. Being given this opportunity to head ARTA is a one-time privilege; it cannot happen again. I know that I can of course be replaced anytime, being a presidential appointee. So while I’m here, I will do my best,” Perez stresses. “And I will do my best in the fastest, best way possible because the faster we can operationalize our programs, the greater the benefit to the people.”


Describing ARTA as the “agency of the future,” Perez knows that a lot has to be done in order to fulfill the office’s mandate. The secretary is clearly cognizant of the president’s directive of streamlining and fast-tracking all government transactions to improve bureaucratic efficiency, which are in line with the present administration’s 8-Point Socioeconomic Agenda. Being at the helm of the foremost implementer of said directive, he assures everyone that ARTA’s programs are in complete harmony with the administration’s objective of improving the lives of the Filipino people.

And as it would be a disservice to the Filipino people to dilly-dally, Perez wants the nation to feel the impact of ARTA’s programs as soon as possible. “We would like to see all the programs, initiatives that we have started to be fully operationalized within at the most two years.”

The nemesis of inefficient government service wants citizens to help spread information about the agency, and to report instances of red tape. “All you have to do is access our website and you will be able to find out all the programs and initiatives that we have. You could also report red tape through our website, our social media, and even text,” he says.

The face of the revitalized battle against red tape also poses a simple yet crucial challenge to his fellow public servants: “Let’s make a difference in public service by being honest, by being efficient, by treating any person who comes to us as an important person, not as somebody who is asking for a favor. Let us have that change in the mindset of people in government [that we can take our time and the people can wait.] We have to do things fast. We are public servants and we owe our positions to the public who expect a lot from us. So let’s not disappoint them. Let us give them the kind of service that they deserve”.

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