Anybody had a hard time dealing with DFA? I just did. Remember my post regarding pet peeves a few months ago and I mentioned that one of my pet peeves is dealing with government offices? *Sigh* Let me just recount the events prior to the release of my passport.
When I lost my backpack last March, my passport was in there. Being so preoccupied, I forgot to take it out and secure it at home. So, I lost it, too, and it was never returned. Most likely, it already ended up in the garbage dump somewhere in Tarlac. I secured an affidavit of loss so I can process for a replacement and set an appointment on July 21 (earliest I was able to get when I tried get a schedule in July for a replacement) at DFA Megamall. Here’s what happened:
July 21 11AM:
I went to DFA Megamall and fell in line. It was actually my first time to process my passport at a satellite office. I was assigned at Window 10 when it was my turn. They have about 12 windows and most of those are open so the processing was fast. The admin checked my documents and when he saw that I was applying for a replacement passport, I was asked to go to the main branch (DFA Aseana) to secure a clearance. And so I took a cab going to the main branch (and it was a good thing because there was no traffic that time) and proceeded to the consular records area. They took my application form, affidavit of loss and photocopy of my lost passport (which I was able to find a copy in the pile of papers in my in/out tray). I was told that there will be a 15-day clearing period (which I find it too long) before they can release my application. I was told to come back on the 5th of August.
And so I waited.
August 5, 1030 AM:
I proceeded to DFA Aseana to get the clearance and my application form. I was then told to proceed to step 2 (which was pay the processing fee). This was where I got confused. I asked the guy at the information desk if I can continue processing my application in DFA Megamall since that was where I started. He said (and in a rude voice), “Dito ka na nga pinapunta kasi may issue passport mo. E d dito mo na iprocess yan.” (They sent you here because there was an issue with your passport. You should have it processed here.). And so I proceeded to step 2 as was advised.
At the cashier window, there was a note there that instructs people to just give the receipt for payment. I asked the guard about it and I told him that there was no receipt issued yet. He told me to go to the information desk again. This time pointing the one located outside the processing area at the second floor. The lady at the desk was helpful. She said that I should proceed to step 1 for the processing since the only one done is verification. So I asked her if I can proceed with the processing at DFA Megamall since that was where I started and I was thinking it would be more convenient for me to pick up my passport there since it is just a few minutes away from my apartment and from the office. She said yes, I can go back there and there is no need to set another appointment.
Thanking her for her assistance, I went back to DFA Megamall. And it was only 11:30AM.
At DFA Megamall, since I was a returning applicant, I was led to Window 12. They processed my application and told them it will be rush processing (which is only 7 working days compared to regular processing which is 15 working days). I was then advised that the earliest release date is August 14 but to expect 3-5 days delay. No further explanation provided and for some reason, I did not ask. I only asked if it can be released on the 14th due to urgency and I was advised to call first to check. The release date range provided was August 14-22, 2014.
So I proceeded to the cashier to pay for the rush processing fee as well as the lost passport fine, then went to encoding to provide my signature and have my picture taken. Afterwards, I left and went to work. And again, I wait.
In all fairness, the processing in Megamall was quick and easy. Not much people that day, too.
August 14, 1030AM:
I called DFA Megamall. Noone was answering. I searched DFA’s website to check if there are other numbers that I could call. I only found two. I tried both numbers and still, no one was answering.
By 2PM, I went to the branch and proceeded to Door 5 – the releasing area. I was then told that my passport is still not available and that it was still in queue for printing. I asked what the cause of delay was. The guy said it was technical and that it was already explained when I applied for the passport. I just had to tell him that it was not explained and no reason provided, only that there is a delay. I also asked if there is a way to have it expedited due to urgent need. He said they cannot do anything and that I should follow up on the 22nd. I mean, what?? Seriously? What was the point that I had it processed as express and paid the premium, right?
I told the guy that I will come back the next day, regardless.
August 15, 2PM:
And so I went back. Again, I was told that the status did not change. I asked if there was a way to get it expedited as I am expected to be in Singapore on the week of the 18th for an urgent business need. He said to just follow up on the 22nd.
What is wrong with all these people??!?
As soon as I got to the office, I sent an email to DFA Megamall. I was not exactly expecting a response but I was hoping that it would help in getting my passport released earlier. I got a response the next day (surprisingly) saying that I should follow up in two days’ time.
On another note, another work mate of mine had her passport renewed at the same branch. She followed up on the 14th as well and when she insisted that the need is urgent and that her ticket was already booked, she was told by the admin guy that she should go back on the 18th at 10AM so they can include her name in the list that the messenger will send to Bangko Sentral (where they print passports). I got pissed after knowing that. I was never told that there was a way to get things expedited.
And so I planned to be early on the 18th and insist on getting my passport released immediately.
August 18, 1130AM:
I was not able to get to the branch at 10AM but I went anyway. I saw my work mate there and she told me that her passport will be released that same day but only after a long debate with the OIC of the branch. So I prepared my own argument in case they still didn’t release my passport. Here was how the conversation went:
OIC: Wala pa po yung passport mo. Sa 22 pa po marerelease. (Your passport is still not available. It will be released on the 22nd).
Me: Hindi po ba magagawan ng paraan yan? Urgent na kasi. Kelangan ko na lumipad bukas. (Is there no way to get it released earlier? It is urgent and I need to fly tomorrow).
OIC: Naexplain naman po na meron tayo delay. Nagbigay ba kayo ng proof of urgency nung nagpaprocess kayo? (It was already explained that there are delays. Did you provide proof that there is an urgent need for the passport when you applied?)
Me: (Quite dumbfounded since flight booking before applying for passport is not advised) Sinabi ko po urgent need. Kaya nga rush processing e, d ba? Kaya nga ako nagbayad ng premium fee. (I told the clerk that it is urgent. I requested for rush processing, didn’t I? That’s why I paid a premium fee for it.)
OIC: Lahat naman po sinasabi urgent. (Everybody says it is urgent).
*And I was like, duh! that’s why they pay extra!*
And so I showed her the email of the initial ticket booking that our Travel Desk sent – flight was dated August 19th. And I also told her about the email response of DFA that I should follow up in two days’ time which was that Monday. And then she went on about the delays and that the release date given is a range and all that.
Then I told her that she already talked to my work mate and they were able to make a way to get her passport released that day and that the processing dates of both application was only a day apart. I also told her that I was not expecting the passport to be released that day but asked her what assurance she can provide that my passport will be released the next day.
OIC: I guarantee, 100% assurance lalabas po passport mo tomorrow. (I guarantee, 100% assurance that your passport will be released tomorrow). I give you my word.
Me: What time can I expect it?
OIC: *stammering a bit* 5PM
Me: OK. I will follow up again tomorrow and it should be available by then.
And so, I wait again.
August 19, 1030AM:
I woke up late so I opted to call the OIC’s cellphone number which I was able to get from my work mate. LOL! I followed up on the status and she said that it still did not change. What?!?! Again?!?!!
Me: Ma’m, you gave your word that my passport will be released today. That was what you told me yesterday. You gave a 100% assurance when I asked you.
OIC: Ma’am, kahapon po yun. I cannot give the same assurance po ngayon. (Ma’am, that was yesterday. I cannot give the same guaranteed today)
Me: *already starting to fume but held my temper* That is not acceptable. You assured me it will be released today and you gave me your word. I need that passport today. (Yes, I answered her in English. Hahaha!)
OIC: Nagpadala na po kami ng messenger sa BSP (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas) para dalhin yung listahan ng mga kailangan lumabas ngayon. (We already sent a messenger to BSP to provide the list of names that need to be released today).
Me: What time can I expect an update?
OIC: Mga 1PM po. (Around 1PM)
So, again, I went there at 1:30PM. I was told that – again, for the nth time – my passport is not yet printed. I told the guy that I already talked to the OIC earlier today and was told that my passport will be released today. Another lady came and said it will be released by 6PM.
I called around 5:30PM to validate that it will indeed be released. They told me yes. So by 6PM, I was out of the office and on my way back to DFA Megamall. I had to wait until 7:30PM before my passport was released.
And here it is. Finally!
Here’s the thing. DFA is getting a lot of applications daily and BSP can no longer accommodate the load since it appears that there is a higher demand than their capacity to produce. Why still offer express processing when you cannot meet the lead time? DFA and BSP personnel need to attend trainings on understanding supply chain that’s for sure.
I know I am not the only one with this kind of experience with DFA. I have encountered a few who were complaining because of the delay on the past few days that I have been going back there.
It is tedious and I don’t know if these people know the hassle that people go through with the delays they are causing.
I am so going to ensure my passport is safe. Trust me, passport processing (regardless if renewal, replacement or new) is such a pain in the butt.