I've been in the Philippines for three and half months, and next week I’ll be returning to the Bureau of Immigration in Manila where I’ll renew my Tourist Visa once again.
I had an interesting experience the first time I renewed my Visa at the Bureau of Immigration. As I've mentioned in one of my previous posts, the non-governmental organization that monitors political corruption, Transparency International (TI), scored the Philippines at a 2.4, on a scale from 10 (highly clean) to 0 (highly corrupt) in its Corruption Perception Index for 2010. To get an idea of how poor of a ranking this is, the Philippines tied with Bangladesh, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe.
Tied with Zimbabwe? Now that’s corrupt.
So I shouldn't have been too surprised when the government employee working at the cashier’s desk of the Bureau of Immigration attempted to rip me off, overcharging me for the Visa nearly $30 USD. Luckily I had Sheila call the Bureau prior to our arrival and ask how much the Visa would cost, just in case something like this would happen.
Once the cashier punched the numbers in the calculator and turned it around for me to see, I knew I was being overcharged.
“What the . . . ?” I said to Sheila, raising an eyebrow.
Sheila quickly told the man that she’d called earlier and was told the Visa would cost much less. The man didn't speak a word; he simply reached for the calculator, nonchalantly punched in some new figures and turned it around, displaying a much cheaper price.
He smiled and gave Sheila a wink.
Now you know a country is corrupt when a low-level government employee tries to rip you off. If it’s corrupt at this level, I can’t even begin to imagine how corrupt it gets once you begin to move up the ladder.
It appears that Transparency International’s recent assessment has proven to be undoubtedly accurate - not that I’d ever doubted it.