Government services

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) - June 17, 2021 - 12:00am

Nobody enjoys transacting in government offices. It takes so much time, it’s tedious, it’s dizzying and you almost always have to deal with supposed public servants who are too busy or too lazy to take a moment and stop whatever they are doing to help you. And if they do, they make you feel you are wasting their precious time.

When I was younger, my grandparents often took me along with them whenever they transacted in government agencies to help them read the signs and navigate the process. We were often at the offices of the Bureau of Internal Revenue and in the City Hall for permits and whatever it was they needed for their business.

No president has successfully improved government services to the extent that taxpayers would really have a breeze when transacting with state agencies.

But this is how it should be. I dream of the day when I don’t have to take a leave from work just because I need to register my vehicle or renew some government license.

I also dream of the time when my senior citizen loved ones would be properly accommodated — beyond just having senior citizen lanes. Perhaps, there should be a dedicated assistant solely for the elderlies in every government office.

As it is now, it’s cumbersome dealing with government agencies. There should be an improvement in frontline services. It is not enough to put knowledgeable people to head these agencies. They should also be skilled in managing and improving customer services because Filipinos are more than customers — we are taxpayers and we deserve efficient service.

Corruption, political patronage

Our leaders must weed out corruption and red tape. Bureaucratic reforms have been forgotten because the prevailing systems made money for a powerful few. How many stories of fraudulent contracts with the government have we been so used to hearing?

Political patronage must likewise be eliminated.

Isn’t it sad that many directors of government corporations are men who are not equipped to be part of the boards of such offices? We hear of singers, celebrities, and even bloggers appointed as directors. One wonders what makes them qualified beyond their closeness to a political godling.

A diehard Duterte supporter once argued with me that, despite all the criticisms against the President, at least his administration has improved government services. He cited improvements in some agencies such as the Department of Foreign Affairs.

I agree that getting a passport is easier now, at least in my experience a few years back. Plus some changes really make so much sense — the 10-year validity of the Philippine passport for adults and five years for minors from the date of issue, for example. I remember applying for my passport before COVID-19 and I didn’t really have a hard time compared to other times in the past administration.

But the DFA is just one.

I had to deal with the Land Registration Authority and it took me hours per day — it took me two days — to get what I needed. This isn’t how it should be.

Other horror stories abound.

The Land Transportation Office (LTO) is still among the agencies that continue to get failing grades when it comes to providing efficient services.

Recently, I’ve heard stories of motorists who have just registered their vehicles, but did not receive their registration stickers. One registered in 2015, but has not received his car plates. Another registered his vehicle in August 2020 and still does not have a sticker more than a year later.

There are similar stories. The last time I went to the LTO pre-COVID-19, I likewise had a difficult time falling in line for the emission test up to the whole registration process. I had to go back several days in a span of one week.

People have become so resigned to the incompetence of government agencies, but incompetence, inefficiency, and dishonesty need not be an inevitable feature of government.

It’s crazy and frustrating, and it is so wrong. Why can’t the government make services more efficient?

I hope, one day, a sitting president successfully improves frontline services for everyone. This is how a government should be — serving the citizenry to the best of its ability and nothing less.

Remembering ECJ

I couldn’t help but notice the full page ads in newspapers last June 10 in memory of Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco or ECJ. He passed away on June 16 last year, six days after he celebrated his 85th birthday on June 10.

In his home province of Tarlac, he remains the revered son, with June 10 of every year set as a special day in the province.

Sadly, for coconut farmers, it’s a different memory about ECJ. Their quest for justice for the coconut levy fund continues and the passage of the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Act in February this year was supposed to have resolved it. But farmers said they have been left out by the government in the discussions on how the P76 billion coco levy funds will be used.



Iris Gonzales’ email address is eyesgonzales@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at eyesgonzales.com

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