Three-in-one hour
NOTES FROM THE EDITOR - Singkit (The Philippine Star) - March 18, 2018 - 12:00am

I scheduled everything I had to do with regards government offices for one major effort last Tuesday. The satellite offices in malls make it a lot easier for citizens to transact with the government, as do the online services that allow you to fill up and download forms, pay whatever fees and review procedures and requirements. So armed with my forms and documents and receipts I headed to Robinsons Galleria.

At 10:05 a.m. I was at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) office at the basement of Galleria extension. They were just opening up the office but the line for those who had filed their applications online and had appointments was already like 40 persons long. I asked if there was a senior citizens’ queue and was told that I would be attended to as soon as the lady being fingerprinted was done. Sure enough, the man behind the counter took my receipt (I had paid for the clearance at an authorized convenience store a couple of weeks ago), retrieved the form that I had filled up online and thank goodness there isn’t any criminal with the same name as me so I was cleared to proceed with electronic fingerprinting. That done, I was told to go to the releasing table where the man printed out my clearance and in all of 10 minutes I had my clearance.

Next stop – passport renewal. I guess with the new 10-year validity and the availability of cheap fares and tour packages, it seems everybody is applying for or renewing their passports. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has a pretty big space with access from Ortigas Avenue, so people were there even before the mall opened at 10 a.m. The line here was even longer than at the NBI. When I got there, the guard took one look at me and immediately sent me to a counter where my application was checked; I was told to photocopy some documents (a photocopy service is conveniently provided on site) then I went to queue up at Window 1 to start my application process.

Again, my magic (silver) hair caught the attention of the officer at the window, who had me escorted to the front of the line with the announcement, “Mauuna po ang senior (seniors go first).” There was just one other senior couple ahead of me.

From there I hopped on to the succeeding windows – verification, payment and finally encoding and picture taking, then paying for the courier service to deliver my passport after 15 working days – and was done in less than 30 minutes.

The last task of the day was getting my driver’s license card at the Land Transportation Office (LTO). Since I had gone through the renewal process in 2016 and only had to claim the plastic card (I had to do the biometrics capturing again though), it was a really quick 7-minute process.

I had my clearance, license and passport receipt – all in less than an hour, and it was even too early for lunch!

Workers in the government bureaucracy often get a bum rap – they’re thought to be lazy, inefficient, surly, waiting for a bribe… Those at the NBI, LTO and DFA extension offices I dealt with were certainly not that way; they knew their job and were efficient, patient and courteous. Perhaps my magic hair helped some, but for sure, bravo to these government workers who exemplify the best of public service.

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