Delay is coming, please pass the passport

Delay is coming, please pass the passport

Authored by: Nicon Fameronag (Former undersecretary DOLE)    Date posted: Sep 29, 2017

If you are (1) senior citizen with a senior citizen ID; (2) a person with disability with a PWD ID, or visible disability; (3) a solo parent with valid solo parent ID; (4) pregnantwith a medical certificate; and {5) a minor seven years old and below, then you don't need an appointment with the Department of Foreign Affairs to get a passport. All you need to do to apply for one is avail of the priority lane at the DFA in Aseana or at any DFA satellite office or Regional Consular Office. Very helpful, this DFA guideline.

Unfortunately, the above classes of citizens do not include overseas Filipino workers, so for them applying for a passport is Calvary, or hell, depending on where in our archipelago an OFW lives, or resides. And how difficult getting a Philippine passport could get? Ask a citizen. Let's call her Mali.

I guess that's for "malicious." Here's what she said, online. "Hi . I have applied through the new DFA passport website and I have not received any email regarding my appointment yet and it's been a week already. When I tried applying again, it says that I already have an appointment and that I should cancel. I checked my spam folders, junk mail, and I don't see the e-mail. Did anyone of you experience a similar problem?" Hundreds of OFWs will answer "yes" to the question. Yes, indeed, the DFA's passport application system, with its online appointment process, is in a terrible mess. For one, the process doesn't apply to all, as the above classes of citizens are exempt. Throw out of the window the fairness and universal equality principle.

Of course, go vernment officials, their families, relatives, and those who have "connections" are also exempt. Call this special privilege. So are those who "pay"—I  am being kind here—so let's be blunt: those who bribe the ... passport-makers. These are members of syndicates operating with impunity in the DFA offices. Let's begin in Zamboanga City, where a source told me that even without an appointment, a passport applicant with wads of cash can obtain a passport in a breeze. Now, DFA officials will call it unfair and will be quick to demand to name names. Excuse me? Go there in Zamboanga yourselves undercover and observe what's happening in the DFA regional office. Go to Puerto Princesa City where a consular official told me that last year,

Filipino-looking Indonesians and Malaysians were able to obtain Philippine passports because some real Filipinos were engaged in a small and medium enterprise (SME) called "passporting". Incidents of this kind are many; public reporting is few; and DFA action is wanting. A netizen advised passport applicants to "shop" for DFA regional offices where there is no queuing, citing DFA branches in Batangas and Pampanga as places where "passporting" is quicker. An OFW whose passport is to expire in six months, and who tried to renew it via the appointment system only to find out there is no longer any available date in November, went all the way to the DFA office in Lucena City. She needed a new passport because immigration officers in Jordan, where she planned to work, were asking for a passport with longer validity.

The APO Productions, Inc., it turned out, was ill-prepared. It has not expected—and did not care to know—that the DFA processes something like three million passport

applications annually, or about 250,000 to 300,000 every month. The calendar, on the average, has only 30 days, so if DFA personnel work without let-up even on Saturdays and Sundays—which they don't—that's something like 10,000 passport applications a day.

With this arithmetic, the APO Productions, Inc. panicked. Overwhelmed, they didn't know what to do. Remember, APO Productions, Inc. is a printing company. It prints the government's official ballots, official receipts, official forms, etc. It has no front- line public service orientation and it didn't know how to answer irate citizens. It even has management-labor relations problems, in the past and in the present. Some of its previous officials even face corruption cases in court. In short, APO Productions, Inc. is the last office in the land OFWs have to go to have their passports printed.

With the outsourcing by the DFA of its Passport Appointment System, the DFA, in effect, outsourced all of the passport problems, delays of six months included, to APO Productions, Inc. which in turn, unknowingly and unsuspecting, embraced the whole mess.

Except for OFWs, this must have made some people very happy. In a cryptic note, PilipinasTeleserv, Inc., the company previously managing the Passport Appointment

System, posted this on the Internet: Pilipinas Teleserv, Inc. would like to thank the public for the support and inputs throughout the years in making the appointment system an effective service." Now, please apply for a passport by visiting the site, www.passport.gov.ph. A former undersecretary for employment of the DOLE, the author is the president of  the Lilac Center for Public Interest, Inc., a policy research and advocacy think-tank. Now, before passport applicants rush in throng to the steel-gated DFA offices, be it known to all that since last year, 17 June 2016 to be exact, the DFA has out-sourced the DFA Passport Appointment System to a government printing company called APO Productions, Inc. That's when the problem worsened and OFWs begun to suffer.