Migrante International expresses its utmost alarm over the massive passport fiasco which now places extensive amounts of private personal information of passport applicants under serious threats. This is indeed distressing considering that it occurred while we are fast approaching the midterm national elections. We fear the dangerous implications it pose on the welfare of our dear OFWs. Aside from the consequent inconveniences it will cause them, any private information leaked will surely make OFWs and all the other passport applicants vulnerable to identity theft and other fraudulent schemes.
We demand that the Department of Foreign Affairs clearly present to the public all the actions that it will undertake to oblige the private contractor to turn over and subsequently delete the data it currently holds. The fact that its contract has already been terminated means that it should no longer have any business in retaining all the private information it collected from passport applicants. Hence, their continued possession of enormous volumes of sensitive data is already a serious form of leakage and an infringement on the right to privacy.
As OFW advocates of national integrity, we have always opposed the direct control and involvement of profit-driven private entities in many government transactions and projects. Corruption has been pestering many government agencies for so long since the government’s compliance with neoliberal policies normalizes the engrossment of public officials in striking deals with big private contractors whose only aim is to maximize their profits at the expense of the welfare and security of OFWs and the Filipino people in general.
Moreover, if the government is impotent in protecting the passport data from being held hostage by a “pissed-off” private contractor, we can definitely have a broad idea of how much worse it can get once the implementation of the national ID system is in full swing. Under the present system, the government has this strong preference to prostituting our sovereignty by awarding large-scale contracts to dubious foreign contractors just like the 12-year Php1.6 Billion contract awarded by the Philippine Statistics Authority to US-based firm UNISYS which has figured prominently in data breach controversies overseas.
There is no doubt that investigations will never suffice unless the privatization of data processing in the Department of Foreign Affairs and all the rest of government agencies is ceased to give way for the development and improvement of in-house capacities. Allowing foreign contractors to access and control data processing is already a threat to national security and public safety. Blaming previous administrations and purportedly holding the culprits accountable while sticking to the same old rotten system of privatization will just appear to be mere grandstanding unless the government and the DFA wilfully decides to adopt a nationalized program in the processing of public data.
For whatever inconveniences this passport fiasco will inflict on the public, Migrante International demands that a full refund of the passport processing fee be distributed back to all affected passport applicants. In the implementation thereof, we warn the DFA not to make life difficult for all the people affected by this mess.