Luczon: Curious tales of government frontline services

IN SOME, if not most, regional offices of Professional Regulation Commission (PRC), professionals arrive in massive volumes that in order to get a priority number, some of them will line up the office premises as early as 4 a.m.

When a new iPhone model is about to be sold in Apple Stores, or a new popular video game to be sold in public, throngs of fans will camp out in stores and spend the night just to secure space and be the first to buy these items. This is almost the same case done by professionals, however they camped out and spend the night within the premises of PRC just to get a priority number for them to be entertained by PRC staff.

In Cagayan de Oro, it may have improved when PRC transferred its office from Luna Street to Limketkai Mall. However, it didn’t change the scenario of professionals waiting in line as early as dawn in order to get the most coveted priority number, and it is not only for the professionals in Cagayan de Oro but throughout the region of Northern Mindanao as well, including parts of Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao such as Marawi City.

They come to renew their licenses, some, have yet to file their applications for their respective exams, and some returned for the mandatory Continuing Professional Development units which has become a law since 2016. This law aimed at professionals to keep abreast on the recent trends within their professions and in order to maintain their professional licenses of being teachers, engineers, among others.

Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) also had the same nightmare as PRC has experienced before. That is why, in order to lessen the long queues and avoid the camp-outs, the agency implemented an online appointment system, similar to that of the National Bureau of Investigation’s appointment for clearances.

The problem, however, the appointment schedules have already been filled and that one has a least chance of getting an availability. If there is, it is considered a lucky coincidence.

What is worse, is that travel agencies have created mafia-like cartels with DFA by securing appointments. So that any person who wished to have his/her passport processed have no choice but to go these travel agencies and pay a more expensive price because you need not only pay the standard passport fees, but also pay the syndicate travel agencies.

And to think, the travel agencies’ modus operandi can be tantamount to violation of Republic Act 9485 or the Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007!

“SEC. 10. Report Card Survey. - All offices and agencies providing frontline services shall be subjected to a Report Card Survey to be initiated by the Civil Service Commission, in coordination with the Development Academy of the Philippines, which shall be used to obtain feedback on how provisions in the Citizen's Charter are being followed and how the agency is performing.

“The Report Card Survey shall also be used to obtain information and/or estimates of hidden costs incurred by clients to access frontline services which may include, but is not limited to, bribes and payment to fixers.

“A feedback mechanism shall be established in all agencies covered by this Act and the results thereof shall be incorporated in their annual report.

“SEC. 11. Violations. - After compliance with the substantive and procedural due process, the following shall constitute violations of this Act together with their corresponding penalties:

“(b) Grave Offense - Fixing and/or collusion with fixers in consideration of economic and/or other gain or advantage.

“Penalty - Dismissal and perpetual disqualification from public service.

“SEC. 12. Criminal Liability for Fixers. - In addition to Sec. 11 (b), fixers, as defined in this Act, shall suffer the penalty of imprisonment not exceeding six years or a fine not less than Twenty Thousand Pesos (P20,000.00) but not more than Two Hundred Thousand Pesos (P200,000.00) or both fine and imprisonment at the discretion of the court.”

Considering all these, there is a possibility that travel agencies withholding online passport appointment slots for their advantage are criminally liable, and in turn, DFA is EQUALLY LIABLE for making this a trending industry if found guilty, and if contested in court. To be fair, DFA has tried to open more slots but because the request for appointments were high, it’s already filled in less than an hour.

To think: PRC is struggling in catering its applicants under traditional priority numbering system, and still, DFA is also struggling even it has now an online appoint system. This could only mean one thing: there is a lack manpower and offices for these agencies’ frontline services. The question now, is why not hire more frontline service staff and open more offices? By expansion, this also mean job opportunities for college graduates, and a good appropriation for people’s taxes.

It remains a mystery why it is hard to achieve. Oh, our dear government.
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