'I will autopsy the yellows': Locsin vows to identify people behind passport mess

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 13) — Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro "Teddy Boy" Locsin Jr. on Saturday vowed to expose the culprits behind the alleged data breach caused by a previous outsourced passport maker.

"Those behind the passport mess will launch a social media campaign against me. I will identify them," Locsin said in a tweet.

"Apparently the mess crosses partisan lines," he added.

 

In an earlier tweet, Locsin said the issue on the data loss began during the administration of former President and now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and "got worse" under former President's Benigno Aquino III's term.

 

Locsin said the problem will be addressed under his watch.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary warned that he will "autopsy" the "yellow crowd" over the incident.

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

Yellow is associated with the Liberal Party, led by Aquino, whose members are known critics of President Rodrigo Duterte.

 

However, Locsin said he will not summon those responsible for the issue, as he will leave the investigation to the Senate and the Department of Justice (DOJ).

"No. I want the problem fixed. Let the Senate investigate and DOJ prosecute if ever," he said as a response to a Twitter user's question.

Locsin's remarks came after he disclosed that an outsourced passport maker took passport applicants' data after its contract was terminated. He said people opting to renew their passports are now required to bring their birth certificates due to the data loss.

The National Privacy Commission said it will look into the issue.

Former DFA chief speaks

Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. spoke about the issue and revealed that a private company has been illegally producing electronic passports (e-passport) for the DFA.

In a Facebook post on Saturday, Yasay—a Duterte appointee who served under the position from June 2016 to March 2017—said the issue on "requiring the already harassed and exasperated applicants to bring their birth certificates and other supporting documents for the renewal of their passports" due to the breach is "most likely" just part of  a bigger story.

"But why make the public suffer some more for the misfeasance or wrong of certain government officials?" he asked.

 

According to Yasay, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and the DFA in August 2006 entered into an agreement on the procurement and centralized production of machine readable electronic passports (MREP) in line with the standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The main part of the project, he said, was awarded to French firm Francois-Charles Oberthur Fiduciare (FCOF) through its local office in Makati City.

But in October 2015, Yasay said, the DFA entered into a deal with APO Production Unit Inc. (APUI) to produce a new e-passport system "without bidding on condition that no part of the contract can be subcontracted or assigned to a private printer." This happened even if FCOF was producing passports following ICAO standards.

"In stark violation of this condition, APUI engaged the services of the United Graphic Expression Corporation (UGEC) for the production of the new e-passports," he added.

In February 2017, while Yasay was still the DFA secretary, he said Duterte directed him and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez to discuss with the BSP to return to the central bank the printing of MREPs. The BSP, however, refused to accept the proposal.

Even Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, according to Yasay, deemed the assignment of the passport printing to UGEC illegal and even "demanded that all rights over all the personal data, source code, data center and other information" related to e-passport production "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," Yasay said.

He said UGEC cannot be held "accountable for any breach or screw up in the printing of the [e-passports]" under the current "scheme of things."

Yasay called for a thorough investigation into the issue.

"Indeed this matter should be thoroughly investigated without any political bias or cover-up so that the whole truth, which the public deserves will be exposed," he said.