DFA won’t investigate passport deal, says Locsin

Paterno Esmaquel II
'We're waiting for other bodies to do it,' says Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr

HOUSE PROBE. Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr speaks during a congressional briefing by the Department of Foreign Affairs on the passport processing on January 30, 2019. Photo by Darren Langit/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) will not investigate a controversial passport deal involving a government printer that allegedly subcontracted to a private company, said Foreign Secretary Teodoro “Teddyboy” Locsin Jr. 

“Why will I do that?” Locsin told Rappler on Wednesday, January 30, when asked if he will have the passport deal investigated.

The deal involves the awarding of an e-passport production contract to APO Production Unit Incorporated, a government printer, in 2015. Former foreign secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr accuses APO of subcontracting to a private firm, United Graphic Expression Corporation (UGEC), “in violation of the law.” 

Locsin appeared at the House of Representatives on Wednesday to discuss issues such as those involving passports. His briefing before the House foreign affairs committee was held behind closed doors.

When asked about Yasay’s call for an investigation, Locsin said in an interview after the House briefing, “He should investigate it.”

“If he wants, he can. In fact why doesn’t he investigate it, and then we’ll let him bring it because he’s made some very serious allegations about the integrity of Congress, and I vouch for the integrity of Congress. I don’t vouch for his integrity, only the integrity of Congress,” said Locsin, who was Makati 1st District representative from 2001 to 2010.

Locsin said on January 15 that “only a Senate investigation will assure the public that there was no breach or loss of data.” He said that “until then, the department can give no assurances on the safety and security of some data.”

Yasay earlier claimed “some powerful members of Congress intervened” and said there is nothing wrong with the e-passport deal. He pointed out that these “powerful members” also belong to the Commission on Appointments, which ended up rejecting him as foreign secretary in March 2017. 

Not ‘misinformed’ but ‘overinformed’

Asked why the DFA is not having this investigated, Locsin said, “We’re waiting for other bodies to do it.”

Locsin also denied he made a mistake in his earlier claims about passport data.

Locsin had tweeted on January 8 that a previous government contractor “took all the data” involving passports when its contract was terminated, only to say on January 15 that there is no runaway of passport data after all. 

Asked if he made a mistake when he first tweeted about this issue, Locsin said: “Absolutely not. I never make mistakes. Really. I think Maria Ressa knows that.”

“They said I am misinformed. I said no, I was overinformed,” he added, referring to Yasay saying that Locsin was “misinformed” about the issue.

He pointed out “there were different versions” on why the DFA needed birth certificates for passport renewals, and these reasons included “loss of data.” 

“But in the end APO told me very nicely, ‘Sir, that is your most useless requirement.’ And that’s it. And also a lot of top guns in the DFA said it’s a totally useless requirement,” Locsin said.

Locsin said he informed the House of Representatives on Wednesday that the passport issue “was resolved because I got rid of the birth certificate,” referring to his decision to scrap the birth certificate requirement for passport renewals. – Rappler.com

Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.