By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Malacañang said people renewing their passports should not be burdened by requiring them to bring their birth certificates just because their data was lost.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made the statement after Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary TeodoroLocsin Jr. said a “pissed” passport production contractor the government had terminated “made off” with data.
The situation made the DFA to “rebuild” its database for passports issued before 2010 because a previous outsourced passport maker took all the data when contract terminated. Locsin said passports issued after 2009 do not need to submit their birth certificates as the digital copy of the document is already stored in their database.
Panelo, in his statement, however, rejected the idea of requiring applicants to bring their birth certificate for passport renewal.
“Applicants should not be burdened by submitting original copies of their certificates of live birth, obtaining which requires another application process before the Philippine Statistics Authority, to renew their passports just because the producer lost their relevant data,” Panelo said.
“The submission of the old or current passport which the applicant seeks to renew should suffice for the purpose. The ongoing practice is not only cumbersome to everyone affected but is a form of red tape which this administration frowns upon and will not tolerate,” he added.
Despite this, Panelo said that the passport breach is a “serious and grave matter”.
According to the Palace official, the National Privacy Commission (NPC) has been directed to investigate the incident and ascertain whether certain provisions of the Data Privacy Act of 2012, have been violated, particularly with respect to the personal information of the data subjects.
“The investigation should not, however, end here since the current arrangement for the printing of passports should also be examined to determine if there are violations of pertinent laws which may be detrimental to the public,” Panelo said.
“We are one with the Filipino people in their quest for truth and so we will not treat this issue lightly,” he added.
In a tweet, Locsin said he was wondering why the previous contractor was terminated in the first place.
“Why was the previous contractor terminated? New technology? Then demand it to acquire the new technology but leave the job to it. Di ba (Right)? But that means no kickback. In short, people made money by changing contractor,” he said.
Locsin also said that the DFA did nothing about it or could not do anything about it because they were in the wrong. He assured, however, that such incident will not happen again.
“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 cannot be kept back by private entities. Data belongs to the state,” he said.
In a response to a netizen, Locsin said he was not sure how affected passport holders could be assured that their personal information would be protected.
“How can we be sure? I don’t know. Why you guys who understand data acquisition and protection should keep up the attacks,” he said. (Manila Bulletin)