Government policies, rules, and regulations are meant to develop a more productive society and improve the lives of citizens.
And yet, there seems to be a collective groan when these new policies are rolled out to the public.
Just recently, taxpayers from all over the country voiced out their resistance to the electronic filing system of the Bureau or Internal Revenue (BIR).
On its face, this shift in policy is commendable and noteworthy. Finally, we were switching to an online and paperless system, which should make filing and paying taxes a lot more convenient.
Gone are the days where taxpayers had to travel to their Revenue District Office (RDO), wait for hours, and waste paper photocopying various documents… ideally.
Unfortunately, this was not the case in the days leading up to the April 15 deadline.
There were times when the online system would not be operational, some businesses could not successfully register, and there was a lingering sense of confusion plaguing taxpayers and BIR employees alike.
While some RDOs made an extra effort to accommodate taxpayers, extending hours and setting up waiting areas, there were still complaints regarding the lack of helpful information for taxpayers.
We have received reports that BIR employees were unable to explain who was covered in the e-filing system and what penalties are applied to those unable to file in time.
Some RDOs even claimed they did not receive the Revenue Memorandum Circular (RMC) with regards to extending the deadline for electronic filing.
How can a well-intentioned, even innovative policy shift create so much dissatisfaction in our taxpayers?
I am reminded of a quote from the late Sec. Jesse Robredo: “Hindi sapat na tayo ay matino lamang. Hindi rin sapat na tayo ay mahusay lamang. Hindi lahat ng matino ay mahusay, at lalong hindi naman lahat ng mahusay ay matino. Ang dapat ay matino at mahusay upang karapat-dapat tayong pagkatiwalaan ng pera ng bayan.”
Good intentions and upright principles are vital in government, but so is capability, competency or the ability to implement properly. One without the other is good, but not good enough.
Can you imagine if this new policy was done hand-in-hand with proper implementation? Our taxpaying public would laud the BIR, and all government for that matter, for an innovation that they themselves have been clamoring for decades.
Instead, we had a missed opportunity, which left a number of our taxpayers confused and even questioning the systemic change.
This BIR example is just one of many cases where intentions were under appreciated because of implementation issues.
Oftentimes, we even hear talk about our laws being great on paper, but hardly implemented well.
Simply put, we need to go beyond good intentions. Now is the time to develop our capacity for efficient and effective planning and implementation, especially when we introduce systemic changes.
While the Philippines needs pure hearts and smart minds, we are also in need of capable hands to bring paper to practice and deliver palpable service to the millions of our countrymen.
First published on Manila Bulletin