Cebu, Philippines – A total of P223,000 cash was found missing from the vault of the National Statistics Office (NSO) in Cebu City.
The loss, and the failure to get rid of “fixers” who operate in the premises, may be underlying reasons for the sudden closure of the NSO regional office starting last Monday.
All NSO regional employees were made to take lie-detector tests on Monday as investigators from the NSO Manila legal department started their inquiry into what appeared to be an “inside job” in the disappearance of the cash collection.
Meanwhile, hundreds of applicants who were caught unaware by the closure of the NSO regional office in M.J. Cuenco Avenue swarmed Talisay City’s civil registrar’s office, the closest branch.
Instead of the usual daily average of 100 requests for civil registry documents like birth, marriage, non-marriage and death certificates, the volume swelled to 400.
Talisay City is one of four cities and two towns in Cebu province, which are linked online to the NSO system like satellite offices where citizens can apply for these vital documents. One of the biggest groups of applicants is composed of jobseekers aiming for work overseas.
Lilia Tandoc, NSO 7 regional director, wouldn’t say whether the missing cash or the problem of “fixers”, unauthorized individuals who offer to facilitate the release of papers for a fee, was the reason the NSO office was suspending operations for five months until December, when the regional office is supposed to be transferred to a new location in Sudlon, Cebu City.
“I don’t want to speculate because no reason for the closure was given by the central office,” Tandoc said.
The July 9 memorandum of NSO Administrator and Civil Registrar General Carmelita Ericta, who suspended operations, was received in Cebu on Friday morning.
Computers were already disabled Friday night to prevent the regional office from accessing registry records from the central office, Tandoc said.
With this, Tandoc will be notifying 21 service contractors their services will no longer be needed after they finish their tasks by Friday. Four regular employees assigned in their civil registry system (CRS) will be given other assignments. The shakeup may be part of efforts to cleanse the NSO of unauthorized facilitators and bad eggs, some observers said.
Requests for documents filed starting July 16 have been referred to the civil registry offices in Bogo, Talisay, Carcar and Danao Cities, and the towns of Dalaguete and Argao, which are accredited to operate the NSO Batch Request Entry System (Breqs).
By Wednesday, Cebu City Hall will be ready to service the public, said Cebu City Civil Registrar Evangeline Abatayo, who was waiting for computers to be fully installed.
The NSO is about to expand the Breqs operation to other interested local governments under a Memorandum of Agreement on July 25: Cebu City, Mandaue City, Lapu-Lapu City, Toledo City and the town of Minglanilla.
In Cebu City, the regional office of the National Economic Development Authority (Neda) near Ecotech in Lahug, is also accredited as an NSO partner until August 16.
These offices can accept applications from the public and later release civil registry documents with a P50 markup on the usual service fee.
For example, the request for a birth certificate that costs P125 at would cost P175 if released in the Talisay City office. Release would also take a longer time, warned Tandoc, since the requests have to be sent first to the Central office in Manila. (The Neda office, however, will not charge a P50 markup.)
“I will have to apologize for this,” Tandoc said, but she assured that when the NSO 7 office resumes operations on December 1, “strict” procedures would be followed that would ensure better service to the transacting public.
The missing P223,000 represented the earnings of NS0 7 for June 16. The loss was discovered when the office vault was opened on June 18, a Monday. There were no signs of forced entry.
A separate inquiry is focused on the operation of fixers in the NSO regional office in M.J. Cuenco Avenue and to identify their contacts inside the NSO “because they couldn’t have operated without connivance” said Tandoc.
The NSO 7 office along M.J. Cuenco Avenue is still open, but its staff refused to accept requests for the issuance of civil registry documents starting on Monday. They only process the release of documents for applicants who visited their office until July 13.
Last May, the office received a total of 36, 394 requests for the issuance of civil registry documents.
WHERE TO APPLY
Cebuanos who want to apply for civil registry documents from NSO can go to these accredited centers:
* NEDA regional office in Lahug, Cebu City (July 16 to August 16)
* Civil registry offices in the cities of Talisay, Bogo, Carcar and Danao
* Towns of Dalaguete and Argao
(Soon to open) Cebu City, Mandaue City, Lapu-Lapu City, Toledo City and the town of Minglanilla