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Commentary

The great LRT concessionary card chase

12:06 AM November 03, 2015

THE NOTICE posted prominently in the station’s ticketing booth was clear enough: a list of the submissions required to get a “concessionary card” that would privilege senior citizens and persons with disability with the 20-percent discount on LRT and MRT fares, pursuant to the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2003; the advance payment of P20 for the card; and the 10-day processing period, after which the card may be claimed at the station where the application was filed.

I filed mine on Aug. 28 at LRT Cubao and waited for Sept. 7. But when I returned for my card 13 days later, a member of the staff could only request my patience: “Pasensya na po, sir, the cards due Sept. 7 have not been delivered yet.

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“Pasensya na po, sir” would become a familiar refrain in all my follow-up activities.

After a few more fruitless visits, I asked what the problem was. No one among the staff knew. “Pasensya na po, sir. Hindi namin alam.” On two occasions, they made a call, to their Public Affairs Office (PAO) supposedly. They assured me that my concern had been forwarded for action.

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I don’t know exactly when the cards due on Sept 7 were finally delivered. All I knew was that mine wasn’t among them—and those of many others, too, I was told, as if that were any consolation. I sought an explanation. Nobody could give it.

More follow-ups. Still no card for me. More “Pasensya na po, sir.” So I asked: What does the card supplier (AF Payments Inc. or AF) say?

“Wala po, sir.” Nothing.

I suggested: AF owes LRT an explanation as much as LRT owes the affected customers. It’s your bosses’ duty to demand one from AF. The delay is no longer acceptable. They confessed: Being in the front line, we get all the flak.

Pity the little Indians when the chieftains play.

By the third week of October, still no one in LRT could tell me the whereabouts of my card or when I could have it, and they didn’t seem to know what to do about the situation. Or did they even care?

A staff member tried to explain: The ball is in AF’s hands; LRT can’t do anything about it, AF being a separate, private firm.

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I tried to make some sense of it: LRT couldn’t just wash its hands of the problem. In the first place, it provides the train service and it was for that service that we bought the card; more to the point, it was LRT who collected the advance payment for the card.

On Oct. 17, seeing my growing impatience, the LRT staff gave me two phone numbers of the PAO. But when I called, the phones just kept ringing—that is, if the lines were not busy.

The next day, I went back to LRT Cubao and told the staff about the phones, though still hoping against hope that I would finally get my card. “Pasensya na po, sir,” came the refrain, so overplayed it had lost its feel.

This time I couldn’t contain myself. I told them: Throughout the cavalier treatment I had to bear with in my every visit to your office, I have been extra gracious and patient. At which point someone gave me the direct line to LRT’s PR office in Santolan, Pasig City.

When I called PR, I was surprised to learn it was the first time that part of LRT came to know about my case. (So what were the two previous calls LRT Cubao made to PAO for?) The lady at the other end of the line even sounded as if I were to blame for bringing up the matter with her office that late. What followed was several minutes of aimless exchange that left me with still no assurance as to when I would get my card. When I asked her what exactly would be LRT’s next action on the matter, she gave me two phone numbers of the card supplier.

One phone wouldn’t ring. I got through to the second, and I tried to be as concise as I could: My concessionary card, due Sept. 7, is not among the cards that had been delivered. I want to know what’s holding it.

The lady at the other end asked for my name, the number of my senior citizen card, and my contact numbers, then assured me she would look into the matter and come back to me shortly. In the afternoon of that day, a member of the AF staff called me, told me that my card had been delivered to LRT earlier that day, and advised me to check with LRT Cubao later.

On my way home from the office that night, I went to LRT Cubao and checked as instructed—only to be disappointed for the umpteenth time. I told the people there of AF’s assurance that my card was in LRT’s hands. They asked who could be the AF person I talked to. I gave them the name. They disparaged her as the same AF person who had been giving other card claimants such an assurance.

I called AF the next morning. The guy who took my call couldn’t give me a sensible reply. So I asked for his supervisor. He referred me to the OIC.

The OIC assured me she would personally look into my case. She explained where the possible entanglement occurred, then vowed feedback asap.

In the afternoon, the confirmation came: The delivery had been made—to LRT PR Santolan, not to LRT Cubao, and this had been acknowledged by PR Santolan. I asked for a contact person at PR Santolan so I would have an identifiable reference when I checked there. A few minutes later I was given a name, as well as the information that, according to PR Santolan, I could pick up my card on Friday, Oct. 23, at LRT Cubao.

It was on Oct. 25 that I finally picked up my card. But there was not a single word of explanation about the long delay. I could only wonder: What if I just relied on LRT Cubao and PR Santolan and didn’t follow up my card directly with AF Payments?

* * *

Postscript: On Oct. 27, I sought to reload the card at MRT Magallanes, only to be told that the station had yet no facility to reload concessionary cards. Wow!

 

 

 

Jun Cinco is the assistant opinion editor of the Inquirer.

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