MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives should look into the slow processing of passports and the reported anomaly in the printing of the document as Filipinos continue to wait for the long queue to have their passports renewed or to get a new one.
Filing House Resolution No. 1608, Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate sought an inquiry by the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability, noting that the slow processing of passports “may just be a tip of the iceberg” amid alleged irregularities in their printing.
Zarate said the slow processing was a “disservice” to the people especially overseas Filipino workers who need the document for their work abroad.
The waiting period to get an online schedule for passport renewals could be as long as three months.
On January 18, 2018, commotion erupted during the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Passport on Wheels project when confusion arose among the almost a thousand passport applicants who trooped to the Manila City Hall.
DFA officials clarified that only those who had pre-registered were qualified for the Passport on Wheels, to the dismay of many who, based on news reports, came from the provinces and waited since dawn just so they could apply for passport.
Many of the applicants expected to have their passport processed at that time since they could not be accommodated in the regular passport appointment system of the DFA, according to Zarate.
Zarate said Congress should also look into the agreement between the DFA and the APO Production Unit, the entity tasked to print the passports.
APO is a government-owned and controlled corporation under the control and supervision of the now Presidential Communications Operations Office and tasked with the printing of accountable forms and sensitive high quality/volume printing jobs of the Philippine government;
According to the lawmaker, on January 25, 2017, Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo supposedly issued a legal opinion declaring the agreement between APO and DFA for the Philippine Passports Project questionable after it was disclosed that APO subcontracted the work to a privately-owned printing press, UGEC.
On May 20, 2017, it was reported in the media that APO and DFA rescinded the agreement, and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas agreed to resume printing under a new contract after a 3-6 months transition period. Yet, despite BSP’s commitment, the APO-UGEC is still doing the printing of the e-passports.