ZENA (real name withheld) went to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) 7 office in Cebu City to get a clearance last Monday.

To her dismay, she was asked to return on March 17. She said she needs the clearance for her passport application.

“Ila ta nang giklaro ilang sistema (They should clarify the system),” she said.

An acquaintance told Zena that she came from Tacloban City to get a clearance for her employment.

“Nitabok lang gyod siyag lawod daw (He had to travel far),” said Zena, who was told by the woman that the NBI office in Tacloban City was ravaged by super typhoon Yolanda last Nov. 8.

Another job seeker, who is bound for a North American country to work, was also told to return by the end of March to get her clearance. She is for immediate hiring, but she cannot process her papers without the clearance.

NBI 7 Director Antonio Pagatpat said they are addressing the long queue by requesting five computer units, so they can accommodate more applicants. He sent the letter to the headquarters in Manila last Wednesday.

He said the problem started when the contract of their private service provider expired in the last week of December.

“(NBI) has a new system, but we lack equipment,” he said. “That is why our satellite offices were closed. The processing of clearances is concentrated here in our regional office.”

They can only accommodate more than 400 applicants per day, he said. But there are more than 1,000 persons who come to the NBI 7 office every day.

“Half of those applicants that we cannot serve are re-scheduled,” said Pagatpat.

He said those applicants who have namesakes with criminal records are also asked to return on another date. Their records will be re-encoded, which Pagatpat said would take time.

Some of the bureau’s employees work until 7 p.m. without overtime pay, he said.

In his request letter, Pagatpat also asked the higher office to provide for the NBI 7’s satellite offices in two malls in the cities of Cebu and Mandaue, as well as in Tuburan, Tagbilaran City, and Dumaguete City.

The five computers he asked are only for the NBI 7 main office. He said they can solve the long line if the satellite offices will also be given new computer units.

Pagatpat is hopeful that the new NBI Director, lawyer Virgilio Mendez, will grant his request. He heard they will be given new equipment next month.

“Humihingi tayo ng paumanhin sa publiko na sa ngayon meron tayong ganitong problema,” he said.