July 10, 2007

The Director
National Bureau of Investigation
Manila, Philippines

Dear Director:

I am Raymund E. Narag, a former suspect in a criminal case. I was charged with a non-bailable criminal offense way back April 1995. Eventually, after being detained for six (6) years, nine (9) months and four (4) days, on February 28, 2002, the court declared I was innocent of all the cases filed against me.

Immediately upon my acquittal, on April 2002, I applied for a National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Clearance. I lined up for a whole day (9 am to 5 pm) in the old Clearance Office in Taft Avenue. There I presented different proofs that I had been a law abiding citizen: a Certification of Acquittal and the Order of Decision from the Regional Trial Court (RTC), an Order of Release from the Warden of Quezon City Jail, a Barangay Clearance from the Barangay Captain of Barangay Matapat in Quezon City, an Order of Acquittal from the University of Philippines (UP) Student Disciplinary Tribunal and a Lift Order from the Bureau of Immigration (BI) lifting my Hold Departure Order. After three weeks of daily follow-up, I was eventually issued an NBI clearance declaring that I had “NO CRIMINAL RECORDS.” This clearance allowed me to participate in a two-week research training in Sri Lanka and Thailand. It also helped me land a job in our country.

On June 2005, I was fortunate to be awarded a Fulbright scholarship allowing me to study a Master’s Program in Michigan State University (USA) majoring in Criminal Justice Administration. In my visa application, I was asked about being charged or arrested for any offense. As such, I had to renew my NBI Clearance which then already expired as NBI clearances are good only for one year from date of issue. As such, I willingly obliged to undergo the same process.

To my astonishment however, I had to undergo the same travails that I had undergone during my first application. It was as if I had never presented any of the proofs that I presented earlier. Again, I had to go to each of the offices (RTC, Warden, Barangay, UP, BI), spent much money, resources and time, and present it to the Quarantine Officer. It took almost a month to process my Clearance this time and I barely made it to my Visa interview.

Setting aside my experiences with the NBI, I moved on and excelled in my field of endeavor. I was able to finish my Masters Program with flying colors, which I hope will make our country proud. Because of my excellent performance, the school offered me yet another scholarship, this time for a PhD program.

As such, I have to renew my visa and of course, my NBI clearance. Hoping that this time around, the application will be smooth sailing, I chose an interview date with my consular officer just two days prior to my NBI clearance application. I was in for a big trouble:

On June 25, 2007, I joined the long line in the Carriedo office of the NBI. From 9 am till 11:30 am, I was part of the throng of people (around a thousand of us) going up and down the NBI building. I must admit that this was a huge improvement from the two previous trips— the place is air-conditioned and despite the number of people, everything seems to be in order. But it was in Step 6 that the NBI officer said—“Sorry, you got a hit!” referring to my old case. I am quite prepared for this and so I presented all the documents that I used to present. He smiled wryly and said in Pilipino, “that is good but you have to be back on June 28.”

I humbly plead that I need a clearance because my interview date was on June 27. However, he said he cannot do anything and he even castigated me for setting a very close date. He then dismissed me to appeal my case to their boss in room 604.

I showed all my documents to the boss, who quite seemed sympathetic to my case. I told him that it is quite perplexing to undergo all the same difficulties three times. He admitted that their record system is not yet fully synchronized and that it was also beyond his powers to have me cleared now. However, he advised me that if I knew someone from the NBI who could vouch for my integrity, then, there was a possibility that the procedure could be made faster.

It was a morally and ethically unacceptable for me to pull strings just to make things work. The reason why I lined up in the first place was because I want to trust the NBI system–that the NBI bureaucracy can work if only it is followed properly. But at that very moment, I was pushed to the wall. Without the NBI clearance, my visa was in grave danger.

I called a friend, who has a friend, who has friend right in the Quarantine Office. I must admit that this Quarantine Officer is dutiful but overworked. She initially protested when I approached her but when I mentioned the name of the person, she straightened up. “Hmmp, this people, why do they have to rush me always,” was her not very silent remark. I have to tell her my whole story, trying to evoke sympathy from her. Eventually she saw that I was talking about grave situations and she smiled. Then she said, “okay I am going to work on this doubly hard and you can get it back early tomorrow!”

It saved my day, nope probably my future. I got the Clearance as she promised and I was granted a visa the following day. It was her heroic efforts of pulling my record from Step 6 and then facilitating the signatures that had made it “express” delivery.

However, I felt sorry for the long line of people whom she had to bypass just to accommodate me. Some people had been waiting longer than I had waited. An old acquaintance from the Quezon City Jail whom I met while in Step 6, also said that it took him a month every time he renewed his clearance for the past 10 years. Another person had to endure similar procedure just because his name was the same as that of a criminal. I inquired about an NBI Identification Barcode but I was informed that I had to line up again and coughed up another fee. The person in charge cannot also promise that I will not have a “hit” in the future clearance applications.

It is in this regard that I was compelled to write a letter and share this experience. Considering the huge amount of money that the NBI collects from the issuances of Clearances, is it not only appropriate that they thank the paying public with a decent service? But more than a question of efficacy is the issue of justice: for people like me who had the misfortune of being charged with a criminal offense, is it not a continuing form of punishment to be treated shabbily every time we request for clearance? We already endured years of incarceration (in my case seven years), only to be declared innocent by the courts, yet the government, through the NBI, cannot even treat us as decent human beings?

I pray that the NBI director and other officials will read this long letter and have the time to ponder on how the improve their systems. The NBI officers should realize how much power they yield— they make or break the careers, employments and future of people who depend on the issuance of the clearance— power that they should exercise properly. The fact that they can “expedite” the processing of clearances when “vouched” by insiders indicates that the system can be made efficient if only they put their hearts out for committed service.

Having been an “expert” in lining up for NBI clearances, I have some few suggestions to offer. Moreover, having studied criminal justice systems of other countries, I could share some best practices pertaining to records management. I am willing to share this knowledge for free. Below is my contact information.

I just hope that on my fourth visit, I will no longer get the dreaded “hit.” I hope to become the normal citizen I truly deserve.

Sincerely,

Raymund E. Narag
Fulbright Grantee 2005
PhD Student
School of Criminal Justice
Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan, USA

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5 Comments

  1. You should abide by the rules …. being intelligent doesn’t make you a morally law abiding citizen and it proved when you were charged in court. Be humble!!!

  2. After 2 years since your open letter, sad to say that nothing has changed. I had the same experience and underwent the same procedure three times. I was not even a suspect but a witness against the suspect. It was just the court’s error that i was issued a warrant of arrest. I was just surprised to find out that i had a warrant when i applied for an nbi clearance. What the court could only do is to issue a lifting of warrant of arrest. Still, every year that i apply for an nbi clearance, i would have to do the same predicament. I really hope they are aware of the troubles their system is doing to us and is working on how they can improve their system.
    To

  3. Only now I read this, its been 4 years since and I believe it is still relevant. I hope the current NBI leadership will stumble upon this post and do something positive. I admire you Raymond Narag for this simple yet very effective action, clearly shows your passion for helping your fellowmen. People like you should be in public service.
    I am however confused by the comment of this Raymong Mamba. He seems to have a hidden agenda. I presume he is referring to you as the non-law abiding and not humble person. I wonder where he got those idea. But I give him credit for acknowledging you are intelligent.

  4. very inspiring story indeed RAymund and thank you for sharing it with everyone. to the person who left a comment that being intelligent doesnt exempt you from the law, ignore him because he is apparently a jealous idiot who cannot read. the long letter you wrote already explained that you were charged in court but was wrongly accused. not everyone charged in court is guilty likewise not everyone who has not been charged arent.

    nothing much has changed with the nbi process and it is is a painstaking ordeal everytime. i was overseas for 3 years and upon coming back, my name had a hit. my name is already rather unique so i find kind of odd why they had that result. ill be going to caloocan again this coming week to find out what the hell this is all about.

    congratulations on your scholarship. its sad that another country can see your potential whereas your own country make things a lot harder for you. I dont really understand why our government agencies make it so difficult for people to get documents whereas we arent asking these for free. plus its their job to provide that service.

    its like they conspire to impede what should have been a quick process. kaya hindi umaasenso ang pilipinas dahil jan. pati sa gubyerno talamak ang talangka mentality.

  5. The same pattern exists for all gov’t agencies. I could not pinpoint one agency which values time whenever we are processing documents. I agree with March that this is the reason why our country could not even advance and make a difference.

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