A passenger uses the electronic gate or e-gate at a Ninoy Aquino International Airport terminal that can process a machine-readable passport within eight to 15 seconds while others form long lines to pass through immigration officers.
Rudy Santos
NPC to seek criminal raps in passport mess
Helen Flores (The Philippine Star) - January 14, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The National Privacy Commission (NPC) will recommend the filing of criminal charges against government officials and private individuals who may be found to be responsible for security breaches and other violations that led to sensitive data from Filipino passport holders being carted away by a contractor.

NPC commissioner Raymund Liboro said the body will start its probe this week into Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin’s disclosure that the still unnamed private passport maker ran off with the data, which forced the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to require additional documents from applicants.

“While we’re a quasi-judicial body, it will be the (Department of Justice) that will file possible charges based on the information we will be able to gather in our fact-finding investigation,” Liboro told dzBB radio over the weekend.

“Were there any security issues? At any point, was the sensitive data placed in jeopardy? Because we lost control over it. Was there any infringement of rights of the citizens or violations of the law?” he said.

Liboro, however, urged the public to be “very circumspect” and “not to jump to conclusions” even as he gave assurance that the NPC will be thorough in its probe that will cover DFA officials, private contractors and other stakeholders.

“We’re not judging anyone at this point,” he said.

Republic Act 10173 or the Data Privacy Act of 2012, which created the NPC, imposes stiff penalties for violations of the provisions of the law, including fines of up to P5 million and imprisonment of up to six years.

Liboro said the responsibility of protecting sensitive information is shared by the DFA and the private contractor.

Palace keeps mum

Malacañang was mum on the claim that a private contractor had carted away personal data of passport holders.

“That’s the turf of the DFA secretary. I suggest you ask him,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a text message yesterday when asked to react on the issue.

For his part, Locsin pointed to the Arroyo and Aquino administrations as “guilty” of passport mess as he vowed to “autopsy” their alleged crooked deal.

In a post on Twitter on Saturday night, Locsin alleged that the passport problem started during former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration but worsened under former president Benigno Aquino III.

“Don’t pray. Prey on the guilty in 2 administrations. I will f!@#$ them dry. Notice the yellow panic? A yellow woman was part of it,” Locsin said.

According to Locsin, the DFA under his leadership will solve the problem.

“The problem started under GMA’s DFA and got worse under PNoy’s DFA. It will be solved by PRRD’s DFA under Locsin,” he said, noting that “no power on earth can stop me getting to the bottom of this” and he will trace the masters of the passport deal and not allow buck-passing.

Locsin added that “the yellow crowd who perpetrated the passport fraud are in a panic because we are gonna autopsy their crooked deal. Period.”

“I will autopsy the yellows who did the passport deal alive. This is called evisceration,” he said.

“It is not a game. It is a gladiatorial sport. Watch. Many yellows will perish in the arena. Why they are in a panic of trying to point one finger at others while their thumb is pointed at themselves,” Locsin said.

Senate, House probe

The Senate will look into the reported security breach at the DFA.

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III said he is filing a resolution for an inquiry into the mess where the DFA can no longer access data from the private contractor that it needs to process passport applications.

“The DFA must explain how that happened. How was that possible? Why doesn’t the DFA have copies of that data? Who is the contractor? What are the terms of the contract with the passport provider? Who allowed such kind of a contract with the DFA? Who was the (DFA) secretary at the time?” Pimentel said.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, one of the main proponents of the national ID system in the country, said he found it difficult to understand why government agencies like the Land Transportation Office and the DFA would enter into contracts with private entities without making sure that the terms and conditions will protect the national security interest of the country and its people.

“An in-depth investigation should immediately be conducted and those responsible must be made to face and suffer the consequences,” Lacson said.

Sen. Gregorio Honasan, who chairs the committee on national defense and security, said the focus now should be on internal administrative and security control measures as well as legal action against those concerned.

 Honasan agreed with Locsin that the immediate objective is to prevent the breach from happening again.

A senior House member yesterday warned the government not to let the loss of data in the passports happen in the implementation of the National Identification System for 104 million Filipinos.

Rep. Winston Castelo, chairman of the Metro Manila Development committee of the House of Representatives, issued the reminder as the government moves to establish the Philippine Identification System, or the national ID system. – With Alexis Romero, Pia Lee-Brago, Paolo Romero, Delon Porcalla

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