Former Bacolod City Councilor and a known advocate of information and communications technology Atty. Jocelle Batapa-Sigue blasted the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on her Facebook page and advised the agency to shutdown its website for passport application and renewal if it cannot provide appointment slots.
In her post on Facebook, Batapa-Sigue wrote: Dear DFA Bacolod, if you have no available passport renewal appointment dates in your website, why don’t you just shut down your website or take out that appointment system? The post has been shared by over 3,000 Facebook users since March 1.
She narrated that she’s been trying since last year to book an appointment but failed to secured a slot because the DFA-Bacolod have not been releasing available dates since last year.
“I am beginning to suspect that this is a ploy to enrich fixers. I might be wrong though,” she added.
In her comment section, she further wrote that she received so many messages about exorbitant fees, even for domestic helpers leaving for work.
In a related post, she also called on the National Privacy Commission to check the practice of DFA where the agency allegedly post names of applicants on Facebook. She said: “application of passport is not a raffle draw.”
She even went on to say that in case they need digitalization support, she is readily available to help. But don’t waste online portals that don’t serve its purpose, she stressed.
Following her post, she said a DFA personnel has reached out and explained that the appointments are administered by Manila.
“Don’t do this to Bacolod please – we are tech-savvy people. We are comfortable filling up forms online and bringing pre-approved queue numbers. We support no “walk-in” policies. We don’t want to waste our time or your time as well,” she said in a follow-up comment.
But what shocked her most is when she found out that the issue is not just within DFA-Bacolod but a concern across all DFA sites in the country. She said that she already raised the concern to the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) for appropriate action.
In an email to Negros News Online, DFA-Bacolod explained that if you do not see available online appointment slots, it does not necessarily mean that they have been completely taken up.
The agency advised applicants to refresh the page as online appointments become available from time to time.