TACLOBAN CITY – Exorbitant fees imposed by local government units for late registration was tagged by a group of legal aid advocate as a major barrier in carrying out a mobile civil registration project (MCRP) for survivors of super typhoon Yolanda in Eastern Visayas.
The team from the Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services (IDEALS) deployed in storm-stricken areas aired the same concern of considerable fees imposed by the LGUs, not to mention the fee in obtaining copies of baptismal certificate from parishes.
“As we commemorate the 6th month after Yolanda struck, I would like to see a festival of compassion among key institutions, together pursuing one mission to ensure that everyone’s identity is documented, secured and registered. This is an inherent right to every Filipino,” said Egad Ligon, IDEALS executive director.
Ligon calls stakeholders to be more considerate of the plight of survivors who lost their homes, family members, livelihoods, and legal documents.
“Why don’t we make the civil registration completely free if we really want these people to avail basic services? Ligon asked. “I don’t understand why the government requires legal documents and make policies that complicates the process of acquiring it.”
Basically, every city municipality requires a late registrant to secure the following documents (with corresponding processing fees): barangay certificate (P30), documentary stamp (P20), baptismal certificate (P100 to P150), and voter registration certificate (P75).
Each LGU also collects P100 to P500 penalty for late registration. The amount varies depending on the economic classification of a town or city. In addition, an individual needs to spend for drafting of affidavits and transportation from their village to the town center.
“How can you expect a poor man with a daily income of P100 to secure these documents for his family? No wonder many people died without certificate of live births,” Ligon observed.
Atty. Anna Liza C. Albaniel, local civil registrar of Tacloban, considered as Yolanda’s ground zero said that many of those who perished in the city during the storm have no birth certificates.
“Their relatives want to claim benefits, but they could not secure a copy of death certificate since the birth of the dead person was not even registered,” Albaniel said.
IDEALS, in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee launched MCRP. The project shouldered the cost of forms, provided computers and printers to the local civil registrar, and deployed 200 community workers and additional staff to facilitate community-based civil registration.
As of the end of April, 32,000 names in 20 towns and cities have been listed, of the 100,000 target for the three-month project. Only a small fraction has received certified true copies from the local registrar.
While many local government units waived processing fees until June 30, the service is not absolutely free since an applicant has to pay the cost in the barangay, church, and National Statistics Office (NSO) for those seeking for authenticated copies
Lilia Machica, a local civil registrar of Guiuan, Eastern Samar is praying that the NSO will provide free authenticated copies of birth certificates to those who lost their copies during the typhoon.
“People will get mad at us if they would not get free copies of their birth certificate printed in security papers. It’s going to be a big trouble,” said Machica while holding a bulk of request forms for authenticated copies.
IDEALS is also negotiating with the Philippine Statistics Authority to provide free security paper copies of civil records for 100,000 storm survivors.
In Marabut, Samar, MCRP team leader Onesimo Macapugas noted that past village-based civil registration project has failed due to financial barriers.
“Even if there are efforts to register vital events, the backlog is still in the local civil registrar. Nobody assumes the responsibility of paying processing fees and P140 for NSO authenticated copies,” he said.
The IDEALS has already received more than 400 applications for late birth registration in the remote villages of Panan-awan, Sta. Rita, Osmeña, Roño and Mabuhay, three of the 24 villages in Marabut town.
“We even met a 80-year-old man whose birth is not registered. This is very common in this town. Indeed, a barangay chairman told us that 80% of the population in their village have no birth certificates,” Macapugas added.