Bantay.ph started with about 17 student volunteers from the University of the Philippines - National College of Public Administration and Governance. Back then we didn't have a solid organization much less a concrete plan. We basically showed up in the CWTS class of then dean, Edna Co, and pitched the idea we had to these students. Through our very first batch of students, we crafted the Bantay.ph volunteer program which gets university level students to go around different government offices to keep them in check. On our last day with them, one student, Emir Mendoza, shared his story (originally published on March 26, 2013 in our old website) ---
May aaminin ako sa inyo. When I applied for my driver’s license, I went through all the steps, except I did not go through the driving test. All I had to do was pay a bribe, a hefty P3000 at least, to LTO employees. I did not want to do it, but my father could not wait until I was confident enough of my driving skills. Natatakot kasi ako sa kanya. Para lang hindi niya na ako kagalitan at kulitin pa.
But I solely blame myself for going through it anyway. I got my license, yes, but I felt so guilty about it that until now, I cannot bear to use it. What makes me feel guiltier is that I did this four months after I had started volunteering for what would become Bantay.ph. Parang namamangka ako sa dalawang ilog.
Cases like this are not uncommon. In spite of reforms and innovations in government transactions, four out of ten Filipino families had a family member who gave a pampadulas to government employees to hasten the processing of a government paper or transaction. The survey by the National Statistics Office also shows that 75% of these families did it voluntarily.
Fixers also remain alive and kicking. What’s worse is that not a few of the interviewees we met during the course of our field works said that fixers were only helping those applying for government documents. Nakakatulong naman daw sila.
Emir volunteering at the soft launch of Bantay.ph in January 2013
May isa pa akong aaminin sa inyo. I did not originally want to join Bantay.ph. I doubted it could achieve its lofty goal of getting rid of bribery, corruption, and fixers. They have become pervasive features of the Philippine culture. Many of our countrymen have either become resigned to the fact that they exist or worse, have used them in applying for passports, birth certificates, or driver’s licenses, like what I did.
But I did end up joining Bantay.ph. And the past ten months have been a learning experience. I found out about the Anti-Red Tape Act. Dapat may Citizen’s Charter sa bawat opisina ng pamahalaan. I got to enter government agencies and see the bureaucracy in action. Napuntahan ko na mula sa BIR, mga munisipyo ng Makati at Mandaluyong at ngayon, tatlong LTO district office. I was able to interview applicants of licenses, and find out how satisfied they were in applying for licenses, and what improvements they think should be put in place.
“We aim to create a culture that demands integrity, honesty, and transparency.” These words are proudly displayed on the Bantay.ph website. But to reach this goal, we have to start with ourselves. I once tried going through two roads at the same time. I won’t make the same mistake again. From now on, I shall continue on the path less traveled, the one without bribes or fixers- the path Bantay.ph is paving. And yes, isosoli ko na ang lisensya ko.
Emir receiving permits from the Civil Service Commission for his class before they visited the different government offices they were assigned to - February 18, 2013.