Thursday, June 14, 2007

Tale of Three Barangays

I went out today to satisfy requirements for a police clearance, which is, naturally, a barangay clearance. I was hoping that I could accomplish this task in less than an hour. It turned out to be an exercise in futility.

Since the family was residing in an apartment on X Street, my first impulse was to look for the Barangay Captain of Barangay X. Worked for me before in a different province.

The barangay secretary was getting ready to jot down my Community Tax Certificate number and my complete name, when she asked me, "Where do you live?"

"We have been renting an apartment on Mr. H's compound. We've been there for three years now."

"Oh, you are covered by a different barangay, go to Barangay Y's office. It's a short walk using the pathway near the side of the church."

So I walk towards the church, because it was my luck that all public transport save for overcharging pedicabs were going the other way. It took me 15 minutes to reach the pathway. The street vendor affirmed the earlier statement that it was indeed a short walk to the barangay hall.

At least it wasn't nighttime, or it would have been dangerous walking that pathway: no lights, and lots of shady characters lining a three foot wide and 1 1/2 inch thick slab of concrete. The "short walk" was suspiciously long, and if I didn't have the initiative to ask a local 15 minutes into the walk then I wouldn't know that I would have to walk for another 10 minutes to reach my destination.

There was an old man and his wife occupying the second floor of the barangay hall. "What do you need?," he asked me.

"The barangay secretary of Brgy. X told me to come here for a clearance. I was told that our apartment, with Mr. H as landlord, was under your jurisdiction. Are you the barangay captain?"

"Not anymore, I work for the City Government now. My wife is barangay secretary here and I happened to pass by. Mr. H, you say? Barangay Z has jurisdiction over you. I've been here long enough to tell you that what you were told was wrong."

"How do I get to the Barangay Z office?," I asked, drenched in sweat and legs cramping from the walk.

"It's no more than 150 meters from here. You can take a pedicab, or you can easily walk."

I was drenched in sweat anyway so I guess a few more pints of sweat wouldn't make much difference. I walk the 150 meters to Barangay Z.

The office had an imposing sign: "No Barangay Clearance for Non-registered residents." I was "greeted" by an older man, who seemed to be the Barangay Captain, and his secretary.

With nary a word from me, he gruffed: "No clearance if his name's not on the list." I manage to eke out a smile as I followed the nicer, more affable secretary to the upstairs office.

She searched a folder with names and mine or that of my family were not found.

"How many years have you been living here?"

"We've been tenants of Mr. H for about three years now."

"Well, it's the responsibility of the landlord to register his tenants with our barangay. That's an ordinance, you see. You could ask your landlord to accomplish some forms so that you could get your clearance."

I wasn't going to be angry, but I was drained and frustrated by the fact that my barangay clearance would have to wait for some unspecified time. It was beyond my control.

The good things I gained from this experience are: learn the location of your barangay hall, coordinate with your landlord on barangay ordinances, and propose a unified ID system to centralize and improve bureaucratic processes.

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