Seriously, DFA? Seriously?

A few days ago, I have decided not to write about my recent (horrid) DFA experience and focus on vegetables instead when I received a text message from DFA CDOC yesterday afternoon (16 Nov, 2:36pm), informing me that the passport (which I have already collected last 15th of November at their main office in Manila) was not yet available for release.

What?!?

DSC_0018

The text message (obviously) made me change my mind.

So, tonight, I’ll write about DFA – yes, the Department of Foreign Affairs in the Philippines and what I went through while I was renewing my passport.

About more than two weeks ago, while I was trying to retrieve my luggage in the Cagayan de Oro Airport, I received an urgent message from a staff in the organization that I was part of, that my passport was returned because it was ‘damaged’ and needed to be replaced. Of course my initial reaction was ‘HUH!?!’ I thought to myself, “You have got to be kidding, right?” But no, she was not kidding and to make the long story short, I ended marching to the regional consular office to renew my passport right after All Hallows Tide.

The whole application was quite smooth. In fact, when my relatives asked me how it was, I even commended the regional office in Cagayan de Oro City for having an organized system. It was definitely a far cry from how it was. Before, you could easily get lost in a maze of people who are pushing and cutting in lines; but now, the numbers for every step can easily be seen and all people had to do was wait for their names to be called. Because it was very systematized, it took just an hour of my time. Also, most of the staff were very friendly; if not friendly, polite and did not bark orders at you like as if you were an imbecile. I thought then that at least the signs they were posting around the office was justified.

DFA 1

This is a sign from RCOCC in DFA Manila but DFA CDOC has the same sign plastered all over too.

My passport renewal was a special one so my toil did not end after I have paid Php 1,200 for the the 7-day processing. The fastest processing time now is 7 business days and since I was scheduled to leave in 2-weeks time, I inquired if there was a way for the processing to be hastened. The lady in-charge of the releasing of the passport advised me that such requests can be done but I will need to provide a proof of urgency, as well as, talk to the person who is authorized to forward the request to the DFA office in Manila.

When I heard the good news, I was so happy and immediately prepared the so-called proof.

Preparing my documents was easy. All I needed was to print the ones that were forwarded by my organization and photocopy some identification cards. The hard part was waiting for the authorized person. He made me wait for  two hours before he came down but that’s not so bad compared to the old man who waited for three hours or the lady who has been following up her request for almost two months! (or so they say) Two hours and constantly bugging the guard fell under the minor league so I still considered myself lucky.

(Service with a smile. Service with a smile! Service with a smile?)

Although my receipt was stamped with a schedule of release on November 19 (7-day processing? NOT.); I was assured that I can get my new passport at an earlier time. I told the officer that I will be travelling but will be in Manila on the 12th. Since all passport requests are processed in Manila, I asked if it was possible for me to collect it there instead and he said that once approved, it can be possible. After I handed over my documents and explained my case, he told me that he will forward the request to the RCOCC Department in DFA Manila and advised me to wait for his call two days after for the update. He also gave me contact numbers that I can call for follow up. Guess what? He never called so I called him instead. Out of the three contact numbers he gave me, one was working (Thank God!).

(Service with a smile.Service with a smile! Service with a smile?)

When I talked to him, he told me that he has forwarded the request to the Manila Office but the status was still under verification. I was contented with his answer. I thought, “Okay great, it’s in their system and DFA Manila knows. I’m sure it won’t be long now.” He told me to call back on the 12th to check on the status again. I thanked him for his help.

Come November 12, before my flight to Manila, I called him back to make a follow up but he told me that there was still no update and that their system is ‘acting up.’ He said that he will call me back but I reminded him of my flight and that I will be en-route to Manila. I suggested that I will call him back as soon as I landed.  Again, I thanked him for his help.

31

(Service with a smile. Service with a smile! Service with a smile?)

I promptly called him when I landed. He assured me that the request was processed and to look for a specific officer in the RCOCC Department of DFA Manila who took care of the request. I was ecstatic with the news. As always, I thanked him for his assistance.

When I got to the RCOCC Department, guess what happened? The man did not know about my case. In fact, his exact words were, “Hindi kasi na-forward yung request na toh dito eh.” (Translation: This request was not forwarded here.) So I explained my case and told him what the officer in DFA CDOC told me. He checked his table and went out to check somewhere if my passport was there.

(Service with a smile. Service with a smile! Service with a smile?)

I called the officer in DFA CDOC again to inform him of the dilemma and he said, “Bakit ganun? Na-forward na toh sa office jan ah. Nandyan ba si —–. Sandali, tatawag ako jan ha.” (Translation: Why? I have forwarded this to the Manila office. Is —- there? Wait, I’ll call Manila now.) True to his word, he called DFA Manila immediately and good thing that the other officer was already there when he called. They talked like old buddies and started yapping about this and that. While that was happening, I wanted to scream that the whole thing was worst than my POEA experience!

DFA 2

(Service with a smile. Service with a smile! Service with a smile?)

When the phone call was over, he approached and told me that my new passport was not yet ready. He said that DFA is doing me a favor because my passport was supposedly scheduled to be released on the 19th and that they are doing everything they can to help me get it at an earlier date. I was tired and this officer irritated me even more but I calmly asked him where my passport was now? He said that it was with IT and that they will try to have it done by the next day at 3pm. I asked if this was sure. He said 50/50 and referred me to other officers in the department who will take care of my needs when I come back the next day. He wrote their names at the back of the receipt. As how I was taught by my parents, I thanked him for his help (although in truth, I think he made things worst.)

(Service with a smile. Service with a smile! Service with a smile?)

I came back the next day as advised and looked for the ladies noted in the receipt. One frowning lady checked my case. I tell you, she was not too happy that her work was interrupted just to accommodate my request. After an hour of waiting, she came back to tell me that the passport was not yet ready just as I have dreaded. She, like the other officer, gave me the same speech – that DFA was doing me a favor, blah blah blah. I tried to explain to her about my case but she kept cutting me off, insisting that DFA was doing me a favor, blah blah blah. When she cut me off on the fifth time, I firmly said, “Will you let me finish?” She crossed her arms and retorted, “Okay, fine” and finally allowed me to finish explaining.

(Service with a smile. Service with a smile! Service with a smile?)

Once I was done explaining and asking questions, she took my receipt again and told me to wait as she will follow it up with another department.

DFA 3

She made me wait for another one hour and a half. While I was waiting, I dozed on and off, awoke to a DFA staff broadcasting about the department’s biggest health problem which he proudly said was obesity as per the memo he was looking at, watched a lady give another officer a goody for processing her request, and browsed through the department’s other memos carelessly displayed on the receiving table for civilians to see how much overtime pay the employees were getting.

(Service with a smile. Service with a smile! Service with a smile?)

She came back, armed with her frowning face, and told me that my request was still under ‘biometrics verification.’ I asked her what that meant and I was thankful that despite her foul mood, she bothered to explain. I asked her where that goes after, she said it goes to IT for printing. This made me laugh because the other officer told me the day before that it was already with IT. She continued talking thereafter but I couldn’t stop myself from laughing then and could hardly focus on what she said next. All I could grasp was that she was assured by the other department that they will try to finish it the next day. She wrote her direct line at the back of the receipt and promised me that she will call me the next day to update me.

Before I left, I told her that it was not my intention to be rude and that I hope she understood why I was reacting in such a manner. She just nodded which made me laugh even more. Honestly, I couldn’t understand why I found my predicament really hilarious. I guess it was better to laugh than to pull my hair out for something that I do not have control over.

(Service with a smile. Service with a smile! Service with a smile?)

I waited in the morning of the next day for a call but got none so I decided to call her after lunch. She said that she followed it up and it was now for printing. She added that she wanted to call me only if she was certain that the passport was ready; which I appreciated because she obviously did not want to give me false hopes. When she called me back an hour after to tell me that my passport was ready, I was relieved. She said that I can collect it early the next day because she was not certain if the passport was going to be delivered and cleared for release before the office closed that day. This time, I sincerely thanked her for her help.

I did not go to DFA early. I arrived there the next day before lunch time. Since my flight was moved to a later date, I didn’t see the need to wake up really early. I was there for 5 minutes tops and was glad that my ordeal was over.

Like what I said, I didn’t want to write about this anymore because it’s actually quite tiresome to rant but the text message pissed me off. Doesn’t DFA have a universal system? The text message sounded like DFA CDOC was not aware that my passport was already released by DFA Manila. If you go back to what I mentioned above, how the employees responded indicated either there was a misconnection somewhere or implied of inefficiency at work.

Also, if we were to pretend that my passport was not yet released and was scheduled on the 16th, but was not available on that date, shouldn’t I be informed a day ahead and not at 2:36pm on the day when it should be collected? What if I was already on my way or have travelled far which was usually the case for those who were from the provinces?

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