Today, Cathy and I took a day off from work to process our application for our digitized Social Security System (SSS) cards; we also intended to secure registration for our Revo and get CTCs from the local barangay hall. Later in the day, if there was time, passport photo shots for us and Nathan. That was the plan.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, the SSS now requires the card to claim maternity leave benefits and/or salary loans, among other “benefits.” We had no choice – we had to take time to get these cards, to claim something from the government that takes away a significant chunk of our income every month.

If you’re ready to hear the horror story that unfolded and ate up our day, read on.

Cathy actually downloaded card application forms from the SSS website last year. These were the instructions on Page 2 of the one-page, double-sided form:

1. Fill up one copy of this form and submit to the nearest SSS office.

2. A replacement fee of P150.00 will be charged to be paid to any SSS-accredited bank or to the SSS Head Office.

3. Submit proof of payment and corresponding document/s for the following replacement reasons: (Ganns: I’ll cut the data here, the reasons are too long to type.)

We proceeded to the SSS branch in Del Monte, where Cathy went in to a long line of people in less-than-appealing facilities. She appealed to transfer, so we proceeded to the SSS branch in Caloocan (but not before dropping by Toyota Balintawak to facilitate our yearly car registration).

After getting in line and waiting for 45 minutes, we arrived at a crankly female assistant (who I shall henceforth refer to as PMSSS (Person Missing Simple Social Skills), who informed us that she would not accept our forms because they “lacked the back page.” Cathy explained she downloaded the form off the website and had page 2 with her. She then produced the second page and asked PMSSS if she would accept them. “Meron ka na pala, e,” she said. (You have it after all.)

PMSSS grudgingly acknowledged it, and then, upon perusing our forms, told us they were “out of receipts,” (translated from the vernacular, “ubos na ng resibo”), and that we have to go to another SSS branch to get a receipt, or pay at any bank that accepted SSS payments, except Banco de Oro.
We then proceeded to two banks (Equitable PCI, which didn’t have SSS receipts, and PNB, which did, but was offline) before settling at Allied Bank, the teller and manager of which informed us that they needed the miscellaneous payment form issued by SSS (Form R-6). We told them that SSS Caloocan did not issue us any forms or charge slips.”No bank will issue an SSS receipt without it,” they told us.

We then drove back to SSS Caloocan. Cathy asked the security guard to give us Form R-6 because there was another long line to get to PMSSS. Another SSS employee who happened to be within earshot then told us they that Form R-6 was the form SSS Caloocan was out of. Not a receipt, not a charge slip, but this form. The guard did not know this, so SSS Caloocan basically ate up 45 minutes of our time to do nothing. It was 2PM.

We then proceeded to SSS Welcome Rotonda, where – lo and behold! – they have Form R-6! Cathy secured two forms and was ready to process the payments when she was told by the guard that the machine that captured our photos for the digitized SSS card was not available.

So one SSS branch had the form but no data capture machine, and the other branch had the data capture machine, but no form. The third branch was swarming with people. What chance did we have to possibly finish everything by end-of-day? It was 3PM.

So we proceeded to Equitable Savings Bank on Mayon and paid the fees for R-6 (amounting to P300 for both of us), with sympathetic bank tellers listening to our woes. We took a chance and swung by SSS Del Monte one last time, where Cathy was told that the line was cut, with 40 people in line, whose transactions were predicted to last until closing time. With no other options, we proceeded home, our day basically shot to hell, and our digitized SSS card application still unfinished.

It saddens us that our government requires SSS membership of every private and public employee to gain access to these ‘benefits,’ only to make it incredibly difficult for us to secure the basic tools to claim said benefits.

It saddens us that a pregnant woman has to shuttle through traffic with her husband in tow, to be sent back and forth, in search of forms we had no idea existed. It saddens us that SSS personnel could not have been more sympathetic to our inconvenience, or apologetic when the blame lay more on their side of the fence (e.g., it wasn’t our fault they were out of forms, so why send us off so curtly?).

It saddens us that we, a couple blessed with a car, visited THREE SSS BRANCHES, and were still unable to finish the process, knowing that the typical Filipino employee without private transportation would have to take leave of his job to process the application, only to realize he will never finish the process in one day.

It saddens us that we cannot receive quality service of our government. My father spent his entire professional life in government service, and I spent years observing the office in which he worked. I know the government is capable of quality.When we are subjected to this kind of inefficiency, this kind of service, and I remember how much the government takes from me month after month, all I can do is pray that somehow, someday, I will get my SSS card, and claim what we know is rightfully ours.

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