NPC to probe passport data mess
The National Privacy Commission (NPC) will conduct an investigation over the alleged taking of the Department of Foreign Affairs' (DFA) passport data by a former private contractor, an official said.
"The National Privacy Commission shall conduct its own investigation on the Department of Foreign Affairs assertion that a private contractor has caused the non-availability of Filipino passport data and other documents entrusted to it for processing," NPC Commissioner Raymund Liboro said in a statement on Saturday.
"Any form of non-availability of personal data, infringement of the rights of data subjects, and harms from processing that include inconveniencing the public, must be adequately explained to the satisfaction of the law," he added.
Liboro said NPC will summon the DFA and other concerned agencies, including the alleged contractor, to determine the facts surrounding the case.
"Rest assured the NPC will continue to champion the rights of Filipino data subjects," he said.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. blamed the two previous administrations for the passport data breach as he assured that the Duterte administration will solve it.
"The problem started under GMA's (Gloria Macapagal Arroyo) DFA and got worse under PNoy's (Benigno Aquino III) DFA. It will be solved by PRRD's (Rodrigo Duterte) DFA under Locsin," he said in his Twitter.
"The yellow crowd who perpetrated the passport fraud are in panic because we are gonna autopsy their crooked deal. Period," Locsin added.
Asked if passport holders can be assured for any protection after the incident, the DFA secretary said his job is to fast-track the release of passports.
“I just want passports quickened by doing away with any requirement but’s prior passport. Anything else is Senate's and DOJ's (Department of Justice) job,” he said.
Former DFA Secretary Perfecto Yasay in a Facebook post said that the controversy started when the previous administration awarded the production of electronic passports to a government printing facility without proper bidding and while there was still an existing contract with Francois - Charles Oberthur Fiduciare (FCOC) by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).
Before the DFA awarded the production of a new e-passport system to APO Production Unit Inc. (APUI), a government printing facility, in 2015, the BSP, through private firm FCOC, was in charge of the passport printing.
"However, on October 5, 2015, while the FCOF contract with BSP was subsisting and even as the machine readable electronic passports (MREPs) made by FCOF continued to be fully complaint with the standards of ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organizations), the DFA awarded the production of a new E-Passport system to APO Production Unit Inc.... without bidding on condition that no part of the contract can be subcontracted or assigned to a private printer. In stark violation of this condition, APUI engaged the services of the United Graphic Expression Corporation (UGEC) for the production of the new E-passports,” Yasay said.
He recalled that during a Cabinet meeting when he was still the DFA chief, Duterte directed him and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III to discuss with the BSP to transfer back the printing of MREPs to the agency but it refused to budge from its previous stand.
BSP entered a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with DFA on Aug. 1, 2006 covering the procurement and centralized production of MREPs in compliance with the standards required by the ICAO.
In the implementation of its obligations under the MOA, the BSP tapped FCOF of France through its Philippine Office in Makati.
He said that on Feb. 10, 2017, Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo insisted that the assignment of the passport printing services to UGEC was illegal and demanded that all rights unlawfully subcontracted to UGEC be reconvenyed to DFA or be acknowledged to be exclusively owned and controlled by the agency.
"Upon information and belief, it appears that UGEC which continues the illegal production of the E-passports has not complied,” said Yasay.
The stolen passport data was revealed when a netizen asked Locsin on his Twitter account on Saturday on the need to require a copy of birth certificate for passport renewals.
The DFA chief said it was necessary because the previous contractor, following the termination of the contract, got pissed off and took all the data.
"We did nothing about it or couldn't because we were in the wrong. It won't happen again. Passports pose national security issues and it cannot be kept back by private entities. Data belongs to the state," he added.
Locsin argued with a Twitter user that the issue could not be considered as data privacy.
"It is not a question of data privacy. The data is useless to the old contractor. It is a question of official stupidity or more likely cupidity," he said. Ella Dionisio/DMS