By Arjay L. Balinbin, January 14 2019; Business World


Image Credit to Philippine Star

MALACAÑANG SAID on Monday it will look into the alleged passport data breach, together with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Presidential Communications Operations Office(PCOO), and the United Graphics Expression Corporation (UGEC).

“Well, today we are writing the DFA regarding that matter; we also writing PCOO relative to the same; we are writing also UGEC ganun din (the same). So gagalaw iyan (that will move),” said Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador S. Panelo.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. said in a Twitter post last week that his department was “rebuilding” its files on passport holders after a “previous outsourced passport maker took all the data when contract (was) terminated.”

Weighing in on this controversy via social media, former foreign affairs secretary Perfecto R. Yasay, Jr. cited the DFA’s awarding in 2015 — “without bidding on condition that no part of the contract can be subcontracted or assigned to a private printer” — the operation of the electronic passport system to state-run APO Production Unit, Inc., an attached agency of the PCOO.

“In stark violation of that condition, APUI engaged the services of the United Graphic Expression Corporation for the production of the new E-passports,” Mr. Yasay said further, adding that the contract to APUI was awarded even amid a still “subsisting” contract from 2006 between the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and Francois-Charles Oberthur Fiduciare (FCOF).

Mr. Yasay also recalled that on Feb. 10, 2017, Mr. Panelo, as chief presidential legal counsel, “determined that the assignment of the passport printing services to UGEC was illegal and demanded that all rights over all the personal data, source code, data center and other information relating to the performance of the E-passports printing services unlawfully subcontracted to UGEC be reconveyed to the DFA or be acknowledged to be exclusively owned and controlled by the DFA.”

“Upon information and belief, it appears that UGEC, which continues the illegal production of the E-passports, has not complied,” Mr. Yasay said.

Mr. Panelo, for his part, said on Monday, “That’s what he (Mr. Yasay) said. Whether that’s covered by a particular document or not, I do not know.”

Mr. Panelo added: “Pinatingnan niya lang sa akin iyong joint venture (He only asked me to look into the joint venture). Eh sabi ko naman (I told him), you have to give me all the documents first. Eh kulang iyong mga dokumento kaya hindi ako makagawa ng (But the documents were not complete, so I could not give a) conclusive opinion on the matter…. So we’ve been asking them to give us all the documents relative to that matter.”

At the Senate, opposition Senators Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel and Antonio F. Trillanes IV filed resolutions seeking an inquiry into this controversy.

“As the Philippines is about to begin implementation of the National ID system, reports such as these do not inspire confidence in the capacity of government to protect our data and its ability to police and hold accountable private contractors who process personal information,” Ms. Baraquel said in Senate Resolution No. 981.

“There is a need to conduct an investigation in aid of legislation on the matter for the Senate to decide whether or not there is a need be to amend and/or strengthen our existing Data Privacy Act,” Mr. Trillanes said in his Senate Resolution No. 987.

Senator Aquilino L. Pimentel III had earlier said he also plans to file a resolution to look into the reported passport data breach. — with Camille A. Aguinaldo