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PDI contributor’s POEA experience stirs reactions on the Internet

/ 10:01 PM July 08, 2011

For many Overseas Filipino Workers, the article of INQUIRER contributor Stella Ruth Gonzales, “Exit clearance: An OFW’s nightmare,” accurately put into words what they have long been itching to expose to a broader audience: the hellish experience of transacting with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.

In her article published on July 7, Gonzales recounts the challenges she had to deal with just to get an exit clearance—the long waiting time, the taxing physical and psychological tests and witnessing fellow OFWs being dealt with by the agency’s staff improperly.

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All that only to find out that the piece of paper—”just a receipt actually of payment of one’s POEA, Owwa (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration) and PhilHealth fees”—would not be checked by immigration officers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

The article became the most read article on Inquirer.net on that day, eliciting strong reactions from readers, mostly OFWs themselves.

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As of 1 p.m. Friday, the link to the article has elicited close to 200 comments. The link has also been shared more than 2,000 times on various social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, blogs and e-mail.

“I’m glad somebody came out and wrote about this sad experience by OFW with POEA. I hope our government would do something about it and put some dignity and care to our OFW,” a user named Joey posted.

Another user, RogerOndat, expressed his gratitude: “Thank you very much for bringing to light to this pathetic situation. If more people talked about the sad state of affairs at the POEA, then perhaps the people at that office would be shamed enough to clean up their act.”

“OFWs should not be treated this way. Aren’t OFW’s sometimes referred to as heroes? Is this the way heroes are treated?” he added.

Gonzales’ story also moved many others to share their own experiences.

“I am an OFW for 25 years, and in these 25 years I have not seen any improvements on how to facilitate transactions in the POEA,” a user named Tiago confessed.

“Only in the Philippines can something so simple be made very complicated—just so some people can make a quick buck,” a certain Mr. Tawanan said.

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But for user named Ayt, the issue is bigger than the process itself. “Ok lang naman kung kumplikado yung proseso basta tratuhin lang na tao kaming mga OFW.” (It’s okay to deal with a complicated process if they just treat OFWs well).

While others hurled expletives at the agency and its employees for their inefficiency, some offered suggestions—establish more satellite offices; further streamline the processes; and promote better customer service.

But Gonzales’ experience does not only happen to OFWs, says user Kiko: “What you experienced is not new—everyone who deals with a government agency like that is bound to be frustrated.”

“Its the same manure pile you encounter whether you’re going in for a driver’s license, registering your property after purchase, renewing your car registration, getting a copy of your birth certificate, starting a business etc. ad infinitum,” wrote ayoko_na_sa_pin.

“We’re in a hopelessly corrupt country that’s all,” the said user added.

“Making simple complicated is the art of our government bureaucracy. When we get tired of going through this hassles, then we have to pay money to smoothen the process. This is common to almost all of our government offices,” a user named warfreak said.

“Copies of this news item should be distributed to all heads of offices in all branches of government including local government units. The scenes depicted here are true in almost all government offices,” user MangDolphy suggested, referring to Gonzales’ piece.

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