NATIONAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION MAIN, TAFT AVENUE MANILA.
I hadn’t updated my prescription glasses, so from 15 meters, i could only read one word on the sign near the entrance :
from 10 meters, three words stood out :
PATALASTAS : ONLINE APPLICATION
Confusing, but curiouser and curiouser.
5 meters (No wonder no one was paying attention) :
PATALASTAS : LIBRE PO ANG ONLINE APPLICATION SA NBI MISMO.
(Reminder : Online applications are free inside the NBI office itself.)
And the reason no one was paying attention to the half-hearted, weather-beaten sign? Everyone around the NBI Clearance Center entrance was asking applicants : Online application? Online application? Online application?
The only explanation I could come up with: although online applications are encouraged and even strongly recommended for everyone wanting a National Bureau of Investigation clearance (for jobs, security clearances or anything that requires a certification that you haven’t been convicted of a crime), there are still people who don’t use the internet and have no choice but to do it the old-fashioned way : go to a bureaucrat’s desk, submit a written application and wait for the precious piece of paper.
Enterprising people with laptops and PCs know this, and entice applicants into using them instead of going in, cutting in half the queueing time and, in effect, the waiting time for an NBI clearance, not knowing that in fact, the NBI, anticipating this, already has computer terminals and NBI employees waiting for this type of applicant, ready to help them apply online, for free. Thus the sign above.
Although I counted around 800 to 1000 heads as I entered the applicants’ area, I wasn’t too worried. I had already applied online in a different NBI branch, had my pic and fingerprints taken, and was just waiting for the hard copy of my clearance.
So what was I doing in the main branch? Unfortunately, because I had such a common name (both the first and last), quite a few people I shared my name with had committed quite-serious crimes, including robbery, fraud and serious physical injuries.
Because of this, my clearance issuance had to go through “quality control” before release, still no biggie, but delayed enough to after my departure date, vacationing OFW that I am.
Before the “quality control” officer, I was warned to have my application receipt (proof of payment for the clearance), identification document, and airline ticket and produce them instantly.
What I didn’t realize was that there were dozens and dozens of people needing their clearances issued before their respective departure dates, just like me, and we were all cramped into a small 5 meter by 7 meter room. The salary grade of the QC officer didn’t allow for any bigger.
To speed things up, said QC officer just asked all those present (including me) to place their scraps of paper on top of her desk, neatly and first-come-first-served.
All present (including of course, me) dutifully complied.
Unfortunately, another person entered the room, added his own scraps of paper and surreptitiously placed these on top of those previously placed in front of QC officer.
I could be wrong, but this person looked like he knew what he was doing, reminding me of “facilitators” who for a small fee facilitate transactions in a typical government office.
Even before any of us could react, QC officer did it for us:
Hoy! Nakikita mo bang andami nang nauna sa yo? Kahit taga-rito ka, ilagay mo dapat mga papel mo sa ilalim, dahil huli kang dumating. Hmmp!
Loosely translated, the QC officer berated the “facilitator” for neglecting to follow the (paper) queue, implied that (at least that day) she served whoever came first, and fellow NBI employees couldn’t expect any favors from her.
Coincidentally, because of her fair play, my paper got her attention next. She scrutinized my clearance payment receipt, my passport, and my ticket, didn’t even interview me, scrawled her initials on my paper, and asked me to return in two hours.
In the meantime, I went to McDo for a snack, and on a whim bought a small apple pie for Ms. Low Level But Very Fair Quality Control Officer.
Despite knowing that I was committing the crime of Indirect Bribery under the Revised Penal Code, I wanted to show her my appreciation, and undoubtedly the appreciation of all those persons in the room with me. I sneaked said pie on her desk when no one was looking, and no one was the wiser.
I got my NBI clearance two hours later without incident, and left the NBI compound containing around 5,000 applicants that day.
Mabuhay po kayo, Ms QC officer!