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E is for exclusionary

So the QCitizen ID Card promised to unlock valuable services, from registering a business to paying your amellar. Was it just six long grueling weeks ago that after three tries, I finally got a digital ID?

After the first two failed attempts, I called the QC helpline 122. This, too, takes persistence, as I have never gotten an answer on the first try. I’m just grateful that I was not calling because of an actual emergency. Despite my straining wrists and ears, raw and reddened from continuous ringing, I was determined to get the ID as a prerequisite to registering for that precious COVID-19 vaccine, conceivably a matter of life or death for a senior with comorbidities like me.

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The factotum who finally answered the hotline told me I should try to register after 10 p.m. We are among the fortunate few with fiber broadband of 75 Mbps or thrice the average Philippine internet speed, yet even I had to burn the midnight oil just to get through. And don’t you believe the cheery advisory that it takes just three steps for that digital ID. One step was divided into 14, just like the Stations of the Cross.

Then came the critical part of actually registering for the vaccine. I just couldn’t. I emailed [email protected], [email protected], even the helpdesk at QC eServices. When I tried to register using the same email address for my QCitizen ID, I was told it was taken, and I should click on though I could find no such command on the page. I tried registering instead with an alternative email address. I got as far as the part asking for my weight, height, and birth date, with instructions for me to upload two IDs. Then a full stop: There was nothing else. I couldn’t submit or even save any of the information so laboriously and repeatedly encoded. Persistence was not paying off this time. I was in virtual bureaucratic limbo, and still am.

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Meanwhile, I also wrote to our usually helpful barangay, asking that the four A2 priority members of our household be accordingly prioritized. That was on March 29, but no response. Two weeks later, I followed up and was told that my letter with the photocopies of our senior citizen IDs wouldn’t do—there was a special form. This was filled up and submitted posthaste. A week later, I followed up again, only to be told that the forms we had earlier submitted were no longer valid, and we needed new ones. We promptly went through the whole submission process again. That was over three weeks ago.

Then I learned we might message the barangay on Viber to get registered for already scheduled vaccinations. I obediently did that, only to be thwarted yet once more. Thus, after six weeks of using social media and digital platforms, as well as old-fashioned paper and ink, none of us A2 citizens have gotten our feet through the proverbial doorway of herd immunity.

A couple of years back, there was a press release that the Quezon City LGU would give free shingles vaccines to all its seniors. That turned out to be disappointingly fake news, but shingles, though painful, is not potentially fatal, unlike COVID-19. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, this time it’s still on you. Traumatized by the harrowing QCitizen ID ordeal, I find the national ID now upon me. I just pray we get vaccinated before I have to register for that.

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Carmen Aquino Sarmiento is an award-winning writer and social concerns advocate.

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TAGS: Carmen Aquino Sarmiento, Commentary, COVID-19 Vaccination, QCitizen ID
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