THE Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) has confirmed that electronic signatures may be used for government permits and licenses.

In a statement Monday, ARTA said it arrived at this determination after consulting with the Commission on Audit (CoA).

ARTA said it is seeking to address reluctance expressed by government agencies after the authority rolled out its guidelines on the use of digital signatures through the Philippine National Public Key Infrastructure.

CoA told ARTA that the digital signatures may be used as long as they comply with government rules and regulations, including requirements under Republic Act 8792 or the Electronic Commerce Act.

CoA has said that agencies planning to use digital signatures must hold users accountable and penalize improper use.

“At a minimum, the controls should ensure authentication of documents, non-repudiation of the signatures, and integrity of documents,” ARTA said.

The commission added that state auditors have been instructed to allow the use of such signatures in procurement-related documents.

ARTA said that although government agencies must provide digital payment options, no one should be banned from paying in cash or through check.

“Digital payments and digital signatures are two of the critical aspects that government offices should learn to embrace and adopt to enable the complete online performance of government services in their agencies,” ARTA Director General Jeremiah B. Belgica said.

“CoA’s affirmation on the validity and acceptability of these digital solutions for government services would allow agencies to decisively proceed with their automation programs.”

The Electronic Commerce Act requires electronic signatures users to have a reliable procedure in which the signing party is identified and shown to have access to the document.

“Electronic signatures shall be authenticated by demonstrating, substantiating and validating a claimed identity of a user, device, or another entity in an information or communication system, among other ways,” according to the law. — Jenina P. Ibañez