The perils of government service

Okay, so I thought it’s about time I write something like this.

The Philippine government has been dominating (yet again, or as always?) national (and some international) headlines as of late.

Janet Napoles and her infamous list
Singing senator
Impeaching chief justice

And then there’s the privileged kin of the corrupt

Jolo Estrada, including his diplomatic passport
Janet Napoles’ daughter and her amazing lifestyle
And let’s not forget the consenting adult

It is also not a secret that more and more citizens are calling for a proper clean up of government offices.  Heck, even a radio jock’s sarcastic banter was taken so personally that these corrupt officials buried themselves in deeper shit.

All of these are frustrating (and entertaining, to a fault) because I work for government.  So when people say those who work in government should burn in hell or die or off themselves, I cannot help but be affected by it.

In the past, if you asked me when I was in college, I would never have dreamed of working for a government institution.  13 months of hardcore management training and a renewed appreciation of good governance, especially for countryside development, changed that.  I have been in government service for almost 5 years now.

And these corrupt fucktards are making me regret my decision.

To be honest, when I see those criticisms posted on my Facebook wall — BY THE BEST OF MY FRIENDS AND COLLEAGUES NO LESS — I just ignore them.  I have never stolen or coveted or pocketed a single penny.  But if I will be persecuted by the number of Post It flags that I took home, I will be guilty of it — all 12 of those.

I come to work as early 7:30 in the morning.  I work till 5.  There was an entire year that I would also come in Saturdays, because the work has become so burdensome that it no longer fits the regular 40-hour work week.  And I am the “lazy” one because I have seen my officemates; some of them stay at work for so long, their love and social lives have turned moot and academic.

I diligently observe the No Lunch Break law.  My department makes sure that there’s always someone manning the phones and addressing inquiries.  My boss and I take turns in official travels because there has to be an officer left in our department to handle official matters.  Our small team of 4 handles the ATM network of our bank, all 300+ deployed nationwide, including the hundreds of thousands of cards and the hundreds more ATMs to be deployed within the year.

We made RA 9184 our bible.  We follow it to a T.  We are the mainstayers of the Bids and Awards Committee meetings because our acquisitions are always expensive and high profile.

We love being audited.  How else can we see our errors?  How else can we find ways to correct them?  If there’s no one patient enough to play the role of the devil’s advocate, how can our projections be fair and impartial?

We serve well.  I serve well.  And apparently, I should eat my friend’s shorts, kiss their rear and suck stuff (among others).

I worked ceaselessly for three years to afford a Paris trip and the first thing that welcomes me when I get home is a Facebook message from a (former) friend, asking if I enjoyed burning his taxes in Champs Elysees.

It makes me so angry.  The corrupt politicians are ruining it for all of us!  They’re ruining it for the account officer that deserves that performance bonus.  They’re ruining it for the janitor that stays extra late to clean the halls.  They’re ruining it for the security guard that does not charge his extended hours as he waits for his reliever.

Corruption is ruining it for the employees and other government officials that travel and leave their families — sometimes, for weeks — while they conduct research, close accounts, guide investors, and bring in the money for their institution.

They’re ruining it for the traders, the treasury people that gain the biggest in the stock market and remit 100% of their earnings to the Philippine government.

They’re ruining it for the government institutions that supports scholars, the impoverished, the entrepreneurs, rural banks, schools, highways, farm to market roads, ROROs, and all the other things simple government workers cannot even brag about BECAUSE A HANDFUL STOLE SO MUCH.

It pains to be in the service of people who have become ungrateful.  And you cannot blame the Filipino people for feeling that way.  We feel that way because WE GET TAXED TOO.  THEY STOLE OUR TAX MONEY TOO.  THEY DID US WRONG TOO.  US.  THE ASSISTANT MANAGERS.  THE MANAGERS.  THE RANK AND FILE.  THE JANITOR.  THE MANANG.  THE GUARDS.  THE TELLER.  THE DRIVER.  THEY STOLE FROM US TOO.  THOSE ARE OUR MONEY TOO.

So I guess I’m just venting here.  Because it’s hard to be in government service.  Because they make government service look bad.  So if the time comes when we leave and move on with our lives — migrate, retire, marry and settle down at home — who will replace us?  Who will do the hard work?  Who will do the research?  These people have demonized the posts that we hold at severe rates that NO ONE WOULD WANT TO BE ASSOCIATED BY IT.

Because of the handful corrupt, we are antagonized.  And if we get tired of being the “enemy”, when we get tired of being “thieves” and move out of our offices and into private practice, who do you think will run the paperwork?  The research?  The leg work?

No one.

Because if we won’t do it, who would want to?

Passport Renewal at DFA

So here’s the thing:  in order to properly carry out my communing with nature, exploring the world mantra for 2013, I have to renew my passport.  My passport has been expired for quite some time, and because we never really made plans to travel I never really saw the need to renew it.

Until now.

So I set up my appointment to this morning at 7:30 in the morning through their online appointment system.  It took me a while to find an open schedule.  I think DFA only opens the slots for the next ten days.  Anyway, I got that schedule and I had my youngest brother tag along with me.  This is his first application.

We woke up late and oh my god did we rush.  You have to be at the DFA at least 30 minutes before your appointment time.  They have a list of required documents hereTip 1:  Do not forget to photocopy every single one of the required documents.  There’s xerox service near the entrance but it charges P3.00 for every copy.  That’s too much.

For the fun of it, I decided to time the entire process.  Note however that I did not factor in the verification portion.  So the time starts from after they checked out the application form’s completeness.

They started calling out the people from the 7:30am appointment about 12 minutes ago.  It was weird because they have these huge lounge seats and they keep saying, “Upong jeep lang, hindi eroplano.”  It’s so weird that people are so crass in this place, given that there are “Service with a smile” posters everywhere.

The lady behind the counter quickly breezed over my old passport and counter-checked the input data from the application form.  Tip 2:  If your old passport still has that plastic cover, ditch it.  They take it out and throw it back to you… as politely as they can.  They’ll punch holes in them and that’s that.  Then you’ll go up to the cashier to pay.

What’s sad though is the male employees are just ushering everyone in a yelling manner.  Like people can’t understand them if they didn’t have that harried tone.  It was a lot of unnecessary negative energy early in the morning.

Tip 3:  Bring the exact amount you intend to pay — regular processing is P950, expedited is P1,200.  They do not accept any other form of payment but cash.  Actually, that part is the saddest for me.  I think I’m 43rd in line but when I got to the cashier, her register is already brimming with bills.

I honestly believe it’s time for the government to accept cards.  Debit, prepaid or credit, they should open more channels and alternatives for the public to pay.  And I’m not just saying this because our department’s mandate is to activate electronic payment in government.  I’m saying this because of the actual convenience.  When it was my turn, the cashier got the receipt, got my cash, counted my cash, confirmed receipt of cash, reprinted the receipt, arranged the cash, and gave back my copy of the receipt.  If they had accepted cards, that could’ve easily been tap and go, or swipe and go.  Easy peasy right?

I got the next number, encoding and enrollment.  It was a good wait, not really much of a hassle.  The space was well ventilated and even though the pews were a little intimately arranged, the cue was fast.  The personnel obviously had gotten this down to a routine.  They work fast.

Tip 5:  Do not wear contact lenses, colored or not.  According to my encoder, some lenses — even though they’re clear ones — reflect back a hint of light.  Should this occur, I would have to come back and have my picture taken again.  Remove all earrings, wear minimal makeup, make sure your bangs are off your eyebrows and smile with no teeth.  Hahaha.  I honestly believe I looked like a Ma Mon Luk siopao in my passport photo, but the encoder did her job fast, efficiently and was even able to sustain a good amount of small talk.

Before I knew it, I was done with the data capture.  I went over to the 2Go booth outside of the long queues to have my passport delivered to the office.

I finished right on the dot, one hour.  It was pretty quick.  This is definitely something you can do for your lunch hour.  I don’t know though if it’s because I took the early appointment or if this is really how they operate.  If not, please do let me know.

Plus sides:The area was well ventilated.  You won’t break a sweat, hence higher probability of taking a good passport photo.
The steps are clearly outlined.  Actually, they don’t need the ushers.  They’re the only ones making the noises and the somewhat rude callouts.
The staff works fast and efficiently.  I wish though that they made more eye contact or broke a smile every now and then.  The only smile I got was from the encoder and the 2Go guy.

Down sides:
I really hate those ushers.
I really wish they smiled a lot as they say in the posters.  I wanted to point out that the smile can break the monotony of their doings.  Eh.
Cash only payment.  Good luck to the cashier at the end of the day.  I can only imagine the horror of bundling money, stacking coins, separating mutilated and fit bills, and worse dealing with shortages.

So there you have it.  My day at the DFA Consular Affairs Office in Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard, Pasay City (or is it Paranaque?).  Their performance is quite well, so I hope this encourages you to interact with your government offices more.  Hopefully, most offices are this efficient.

Now… how do I suggest online payment to these guys?  Hmmmm…