Robredo, senators: Probe DFA passport data mess

Camille Elemia
'The Department of Foreign Affairs owes the entire country an explanation,' says Senator Risa Hontiveros

DATA PRIVACY. Vice President Leni Robredo and senators call for an investigation into the passport data breach, allegedly committed by the contractor. Rappler file photo

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo called on government to investigate and act on the supposed passport data mess in the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Robredo agreed with Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon’s call for government to file charges against the outsourced passport maker.

“Nakakagimbal iyon at saka nakakatakot. Parang lumalabas, iyong contractor, iyong naatasan na – iyong may kontrata na gumawa ng ating mga passports, parang itinakas iyong buong data… iyong buong data system. Parang gustong sabihin, mayroon siyang access sa lahat na datos natin,” Robredo said on her radio show on RMN.

(It is shocking and scary. It appears that the contractor, which has the authority to make our passports, took away our entire data system. It’s like saying they have access to all of our data.)

Robredo agreed it is against the law and should be questioned in court.

Senators Drilon and Panfilo Lacson said government should investigate the fraud. Drilon said the Commission on Audit, the Department of Justice, and the National Privacy Commission – which already vowed to do so – could investigate the matter. 

“Dapat imbestigahan. Unang una, ang nababasa ko sa pahayagan ay kinontrata ‘yung APO printing. Bakit itong APO nakapag-subcontract? Ang sabi, may prohibition sa MOA against subcontracting, bakit nila nagawa iyon? May basehan para imbestigahan. ‘Yung APO tingnan natin bakit nila ginawa ito at paano napili ‘yung subcontractor,” Drilon said.

(It should be investigated. First of all, based on what I read in the newspapers, APO was the contractor for the APO printing. Why was APO able to subcontract? There was supposedly a prohibition in the MOA against subcontracting. Why were they able to do it? As for APO, let’s check why APO did this and how they chose the subcontractor.)

“An in-depth investigation should immediately be conducted and those responsible must be made to face and suffer the consequences. Those databases in the hands of private contractors will definitely compromise vital information of individuals who have dealt with those agencies, and the number runs into millions of people,” Lacson said.

Other senators called on the DFA to explain how and why the breach happened, with Senator Aquilino Pimentel III saying he will file a resolution.

Dapat magpaliwanag ang DFA kung bakit nangyari ‘yan. Paano naging posible ‘yan?” Pimentel said. (The DFA should explain what happened. How was it possible?)

“And I am filing a resolution to find out more. We need to know what other data-gathering government agencies have entered into such a contract which is disadvantageous to the government and the people,” Pimentel added.

Senator Risa Hontiveros said: “The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) owes the entire country an explanation. The recent admission that a privately contracted firm took the entire physical database of all of the country’s passport holders indicates a serious national security risk, and is evidence of the Duterte government’s gross incompetence in protecting the people’s private data.”

DFA Secretary Teodoro “Teddyboy” Locsin Jr earlier bared on Twitter that a former contractor “took off” with personal data after the firm supposedly “got pissed when [the contract was] terminated” by the government. But he has yet to mention the name of the contractor.

Locsin had blamed past administrations  for the fraud and assured the public that it would not happen again. Netizens expressed concern about this incident, but Locsin maintained that it is “not a question of data privacy.” – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com