City hall experiences: The good and the bad

Gwen De La Cruz

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City hall experiences: The good and the bad
What are the most common experiences of taxpayers in Metro Manila while transacting with their respective city halls?

MANILA, Philippines – Have you ever been surprised after getting a document from your city hall earlier than expected?

Hiede, who applied for a mayor’s permit at Manila City Hall on February 28, got hers in one day – a big leap from the usual 5 days required by the law to process documents.

“Mabilis at maayos sila. Itong document ko – mayor’s permit – in one day lang nakuha ko na,” Hiede said. (They are fast and organized. I got my document – mayor’s permit – in just one day.)

In August 2016, a joint memorandum circular ordered local government units to process business permits and licenses in just two days. (READ: Business permits, licenses out in 2 days under gov’t order to LGUs)

Hiede’s case is just among the over 4,000 reports that #NotOnMyWatch, Rappler’s anti-corruption campaign, had gathered since its launch in September 2016.

Let’s look at people’s experiences in transacting with their respective city halls in Metro Manila. Out of the 463 feedback reports gathered, 253 were complaints while 210 lauded local governments for good service.

What were the usual complaints?

Slow process and long lines

People who transact with frontline government offices often have to endure long lines even before they could get to a transaction window.

Last January, the month of renewal of business permits, an applicant named Willie shared his experience with Quezon City Hall.

“Alas-diyes pa lang nakapila na ako. Grabe ang haba at tagal ng pila. May mga nakikita akong sumisingit (I had been in line since 10 am. The lines were really long and slow. I saw some who were cutting the line).”

While automation of systems is supposed to fix this, it just won’t work with the sheer volume of transactions in these offices. Sometimes, the systems slow down too.

According to the Administration Office of Quezon City Hall, there are at least 75,000 establishments that renew their business permits every January. “Kahit gaano kalaki ang city hall, it is inevitable na magkakaroon ng pila,” the office said. (No matter how big city hall is, long lines will be inevitable.)

To solve this, some people requested for additional manpower. One person suggested opening satellite offices because of the city’s population – the biggest in Metro Manila.

“Alam naman nilang malaki ang population ng QC, kaya dapat magkaroon sila ng additional branch or satellite offices para ma-cater nila kaming lahat.” (They know that QC has a huge population, so they should set up additional branches or satellite offices to accommodate all of us.)

Unclear steps

Despite having the Anti-Red Tape Act, which requires frontline government services to post procedures for each service they provide, there are still some who complain about getting lost in the process.

“Mabagal at matagal ang proseso. Hindi sila magaling sa pagbigay ng information kaya ‘yung iba hindi alam kung saan pupunta, saan kukuha ng number, saan ba dapat pumipila,” one applicant from Pasig City Hall said.

(The process is really slow. They are not good at giving information, that is why others don’t know where to go, where to get a number, or where to fall in line.)

In a phone interview with Rappler, Pasig City Hall’s Public Information Office advised taxpayers to proceed to their Information Desk first before going to the transacting offices so they are briefed first. Booklets that explain the step-by-step process are also given to applicants, depending on the transaction.

What were the good feedback?

Pleasant employees

While problems in city halls still exist, taxpayers also had experiences that are worth commending – the pleasant attitude of city hall employees being among them.

In Pasay City Hall, for example, one report said that the employees are “friendly and approachable.”

Meanwhile, Quezon City Hall employees are “mabilis… nagagawa nila ‘yung serbisyo nila (fast and able to do their work),” according to one applicant.

Purisima, who requested for a document in Manila City Hall, said the employees are “friendly… naka-smile (smiling)” and “maganda na ang serbisyo (provide good service).”

In Marikina City Hall, one applicant who was pleased after being able to pay his property taxes in 10 minutes, said he was satisfied with the service of the employees.

“Paying property taxes used to be fast in Marikina City Hall. Today, I was surprised that it was even faster…considering there were lots of people in the line. To top that, the employees were pleasantly serving with a smile – past their working hours, and no one was leaving work!” the report said.

One feedback from Muntinlupa said the city hall has “very helpful staff and [provides] efficient service.”

Extra perks

There are also a number of reports commending city halls that provide perks for people who have to endure long lines while waiting for their turn.

Good feedback noted that having amenities like chairs and daycare (for mothers) make the waiting bearable for the public.

“May daycare dito para sa mga anak ng taxpayers na nagbabayad dito para hindi rin mainip ‘yung mga anak nila,” one report on Pasig City Hall said. (There is a daycare for the children of taxpayers here, so they don’t get bored while waiting for their parents.)

The city hall’s Public Information Office told Rappler that every January, their Gender and Development Office opens a daycare where parents can leave their children while they are renewing business permits.

Meanwhile, free coffee and biscuits are plus points for Pasig City Hall. One report said his experience was better “kasi may libreng biscuit at coffee (because there are free biscuits and coffee.)” This is done every January also.

Annually, there are organizations and government agencies that release reports about the performance of local government units (LGUs). The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Seal of Good Local Governance and the National Competitiveness Council’s Cities and Municipalities Competitiveness Index are among them. (READ: 10 right things to expect from government offices)

We, however, want to hear from those who actually are at the receiving end of services provided by their local government units. Have you visited your city hall recently? How was your experience? Share it with us by reporting to –

Note: Not all cities in Metro Manila have feedback on the #NotOnMyWatch platform.

Manila and Quezon City Hall photos from Wikicommons. Pasig City Hall photo from its official website.

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