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“Fixer” in Philippine Government Agencies Like the Social Security System (SSS) and Land Transportation Office (LTO) – What We Filipinos Can Do About it?

Maybe in this post, I can clearly explain how “fixing” works in many government offices in the country. The idea is first, to warn you that such illegal fixing happens, and second, to give you tips on how you should avoid them. Plain and simple, we will not in anyway damage or speak against anyone or any particular office of the government in this post. It just happened that this is about my experience with LTO and SSS Tagaytay. I want to emphasize that still many government employees in the Philippines are doing their jobs right - including those who are working in the said branches.

If you have experienced transacting with any government offices here in the Philippines, whether you're a Filipino or not, you should already be familiar with these signages.

NO TO FIXER Banner in an LTO Office

NO NOON BREAK Banner in LTO Tagaytay

Here’s a bit of knowledge for you to digest first.

What is “fixing” or who is a “fixer” by the way?
In the Philippines, these good words happened to have a negative connotation over the past decades. Good words? Yes, indeed. When you say I am a fixer of broken pipes or I am fixing my customer’s problem, that is good. But in this country of corrupt people, a fixer is one who assists someone in an illegal, unfair, and gain-for-money way. Fixers are rampant in government agencies, though there are some in private entities too. In exchange for money (usually), a Filipino fixer would either speed up a process, hide correct figures or information in a document, or manipulate the normal transaction flow. Such kind of horrible act is done for some reasons, and on top them is this interest for money or gain – which when translated in legal terms is called “suhol” or “bribe” from the one who asks for the fixer’s service.

So, let me tell you now my story on that day I went to LTO and SSS Tagaytay offices.

The plan that day is for me to claim my license ID card from the Land Transportation Office (LTO) in Tagaytay City. Accompanied by my wife, we arrived there at around 7:30am. A few meters away from the main entrance gate of the LTO vicinity, someone asked me this, “Sir, mag-a-apply kayo ng lisensya?” (Sir, will you be applying for a license?). I politely responded, “Hindi po. Kukuha lang ako ng License ID card.” (No. I will just claim my license ID card). That guy, in his late 40’s and in a casual street outfit, then already stop asking me after that short response of mine.

LTO Tagaytay Branch Entrance Gate

LTO Tagaytay Signage

Driver's License Applicants at LTO Tagaytay

What is that line of questioning for? That is an attempted “fixing” and that person is no other than but a “fixer”. I can explain that later.

We then decided to enter the vicinity, approach the guard on-duty and tell him my intention. The guard told me to fall in the line. There were about 60 to 70 people queuing up already by that time. At around 8:15AM, I am already at the main receiving desk and got entertained for my subject transaction.

The staff told me that I can get my license ID card easily since this is just claiming and no further document processing is required. After about 40 minutes, my name is called and I got my first ever driver’s license ID card. I wrote my name and signature on a record sheet and I’m done, good to go.

Before we leave the LTO premise, I took some photos of how things are going on there. Have a look.

LTO Tagaytay Main Building

People Queuing Up at LTO Tagaytay Branch

LTO Guidelines

Big Screen Displaying Queue Numbers

From these photos, looks everything is normal. LTO staffs are busy while applicants for driver’s license are queuing up and waiting for their names to be called. There is a big screen that shows each window number and where the applicant’s queue number is displayed. As soon as the number shows, applicant has to proceed to that window and proceed with his/her transaction.

How fixing happens, as far as what I know?
Fixing happens in several levels.

On the lowest level, if you will remember that guy who approached me right before I enter the premise, fixer is already intervening. If I said, “Sir, I will apply for a new license (or renewal of license)”, he is more likely to respond this way: “Sir. Let me assist you. No need for you to take the examination. I’ll fixed it for you for 2000 pesos only.” Or it could be this way: “Sir. Ayusin ko na ang drug test at driving test nyo para mapabilis kayo.” (Sir. Let me fixed your drug test and driving test so this could go faster for you.) If you ask “Magkano?” (How much?), that is the start of everything about fixing.

If you have experienced this kind of conversation, you will surely have a similar version of my story. If you have not yet, there is a higher chance you will be asked with the same questions by a fixer in your next transactions with LTO. The fixer, on this instance, is not an LTO officer. He or she is just an outside connection. That is a clear form of “fixing” the normal and legal process flow of government transaction.

On the middle level, this is how it works. Some government employees are connected to the people outside whom are not LTO employees. Fixing can be done unnoticed inside the offices because this is just as simple as manipulating the queue process. Say your number is 103, calling your name can be delayed unnoticed. But you may say there is a big screen showing the queue numbers and they are in sequential order, so there is no way someone can be inserted. What many of us do not know is this reality. There are applicants who do not have a queue number with them. True! They will arrive sometime around 10AM or 11AM and they are just there to claim or do what is required of them to do. No number is required but a staff will just call them and let them in. Busy applicants will never have a chance to suspect this activity.

Irrelevant of queue numbers, fixing is done in many different ways. Ever heard of “palakasan” system or the “padrino” scheme? They fall on the mid-level of fixing. In other words, in a pre-arrange transaction, fixing happens just like that – unnoticed! Maybe this photo may tell you something about fixing.



Test Drive Area - Is anyone driving here?

On the highest level, this is what we hear and see on the news. High rank officials are tempted to fix transactions that has something to do with procurement, bidding, budget allocation, junkets and even employee bonuses. Maybe these headlines can best explain how that works.

LTFRB, LTO execs relieved en masse over corruption
http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/12/13/1653004/ltfrb-lto-execs-relieved-en-masse-over-corruption

LTFRB has much to explain
https://opinion.inquirer.net/110540/ltfrb-much-explain

92 gov’t officials, employees fired for graft

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/884051/92-govt-officials-employees-fired-for-graft


Done with LTO, let’s move to SSS.

At around 11:00AM, we reached the SSS office located near the rotonda or roundabout in Olivarez, Tagaytay. The weather is just fine that time. Sun is shining above giving off mild heat while a bit cold wind is gently blowing. (You may want to read my post about Tagaytay - 
Oh Tagaytay Oh Tagaytay – You’re Truly a Paradise). As soon as we entered the office, I inquired to the guard on-duty the process, then filled out a form, got a queue number, and seated on the available bench. I was number 187 and the number in-process at that time was 80 or something. This experience reminds me of something.

Tagaytay Rotonda

SSS Tagaytay Main Building

You as a Filipino citizen is fully aware of this. To finish your transaction earlier or within the day, you have to be in the SSS office by 5:00AM or earlier. How frustrating, but that's life here, and we have to face it.

To cut the story short, I was entertained at around 1:15PM. By the way, my transaction with SSS that day is to apply for an SSS ID card. After some electronic document signing, photo capturing, and receiving instructions as to how I will get my SSS ID, all is done at around 2:00PM.

Inside SSS Tagaytay

Visitors' Desk Labeled with Numbers at SSS Tagaytay

SSS Office in Tagaytay

Information Posted Inside SSS Office Tagaytay

Same banners I captured at LTO, “No to Fixer” signages are inside the SSS office too. Have a look.

NO TO FIXER Signage Inside SSS Tagaytay

People Waiting for their Numbers to be Called at SSS

Here’s an eye-opener.

These signages would not be posted inside SSS if the Filipino people or the government is not suspecting any fixing activity in this branch of the government. Corruption in SSS is happening and here are the proofs to that.

SSS chief on stock probe: No room for corruption

http://news.abs-cbn.com/business/10/31/17/sss-chief-on-stock-probe-no-room-for-corruption

21 SSS execs face P145-M graft complaint
https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/963465/21-sss-execs-face-p145-m-graft-complaint

2 SSS officials accused of bribery

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/943828/2-sss-officials-accused-of-bribery


If it’s about fixing, almost the same modus or scheme is done at SSS as in the LTO, except only that it is not that rampant in SSS. This is my observation. Some of SSS transactions by the way can now be done online. You can register an account at www.sss.gov.ph and you can then view your contributions, loans, and other information about your SSS account.

But still, headlines would tell that corruption, a high level of fixing, is going-on at the SSS territory up to these days. Needless to say this, but the same kind of fixing activities happen in other agencies of the government – PhilHealth, OWWA, NBI, DFA; name it.

Now, here’s the important part. 

FIXER - What can we do about it?
Maybe these photos are enough to guide us on what to do. But are these really enough?

Complaint Guidelines for SSS Customers

FIXER Signage
Procedure on How to Report a Fixer

With this culture of corruption and bribery, it is really difficult to combat fixers in the government. Fixers, because they are in this illegal job for many years, have the best mouths to convince you. On one hand, you need faster transactions and you’ll gamble for a thousand, two thousand, or even more to make it happen. On the other hand, what could be running in the mind of a fixer is this: “This is where I am getting the food for my family. I do not know any other job except for this. And besides, I have someone in position to protect me in case I would be caught”.

What a miserable situation we have here in the country!

I was a victim of fixing. When I was about to get my first student license years ago, I was convinced to pay 300 pesos in exchange of an hour-faster transaction. I am guilty of the act but I was young then, and it is my first time so I completely have no idea if it is really part of the LTO service. How many young people who needs student license or permit are like me (unaware) these days? How many more Filipinos would fall as victims on the hand of fixers in the Philippines?

FIXER - Can we really stop it?
Going with a fixer should not, in any way, become an option for all of us. If only we have good facilities, smart and honest government employees, and reliable systems in our government agencies, fixing is long time gone. But it is not the case today, even decades ago. Well, we are slowly adapting technological changes. But how soon faster and reliable online transaction can fully be implemented? Right now, it is still you who will decide of whether to fall as victim of fixers, get ahead of others in the queue, pay a thousand or two, and say to yourself “I fooled them”, or completely avoid them.



Sad to say, but if you cooperate with a fixer, it is you who have been fooled!

After finishing my transactions with LTO and SSS, we decided to eat at this restaurant in Tagaytay City. We also visited the newly opened Fora Mall. Before we ride the bus, we buy this Collete's buko pie. At around 4:30PM, we are already home. On the same day, just to mention, my wife and I were able to assist a young lady and an old woman in SSS and a foreigner looking for direction in the bus. It was a very productive day.

Andok's Restaurant at Olivarez, Tagaytay City

Andok's Meal

Fora Mall in Tagaytay City


CLARIFICATION: Mention of SSS Tagaytay or LTO Tagaytay is not in anyway singling-out these particular branches relevant to fixing or fixer activities. This post speaks for the entirety – the whole of SSS and LTO organization. If you find any misleading or offensive statement here, please notify the author and he will immediately take action.


Filipino Job Seekers: Here are the Practical Tips on How to Get a (Good) Job in the Philippines – Part 1



About the Author
I am Noriel Panganiban. I am the founder of www.knowriel.com and www.projectpilipinas.com (this site). I am an advocate of positive changes in the Philippines. Post like this is created and shared to inspire, educate and motivate people to do their part in bringing good changes. I have no any intention to damage or harm anyone. The ultimate purpose is to tell the truth, explain to my co-Filipinos and everyone what is that truth about in an easy-to-understand manner, and suggest solutions that could fix it.

I hope this post helps you realize what fixing or fixer is and why has it become a negative word in the Philippines. 
Like many of you, I want to retain back the true positive meaning of fixer - maybe with this post, it can happen. Can we still change its true positive meaning back? When? Please leave your comment below.

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