All passport data are safe, DFA says after Locsin’s Twitter claims

January 22, 2019 - 2:41 PM
DFA passport Interaksyon
All passport data are safe, according to officials from the foreign affairs department. (The STAR/Edd Gumban)

Officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs told the National Privacy Commission that all passport data are safe and not lost, contrary to previous claims of their Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.

The statement was issued after DFA officials without Locsin met with the privacy body tasked to investigate the controversy.

PHOTOS: The DFA today met with the National Privacy Commission (NPC) in connection with recent issues related to…

Posted by Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of the Philippines on Monday, January 21, 2019


“The Department remains in custody and control of passport data and that this has not been shared with or accessed by any unauthorized party,” their statement reads.

Locsin earlier tweeted that a private contractor took away the entire agency’s passport data. He backtracked days later and tweeted that the data are inaccessible.

The DFA officials showed the NPC its passport process that is ISO-certified to prove that there is no data breach within the agency.

“The Department assured the Commission that it takes extremely seriously the protection of the personal information of the public and that all passport data is safe,” they added.

This is similar to the previous explanation of APO Production Unit or APUI, the current printer of passports. It was suggested that Locsin misunderstood the incident.

Michael Dalumpines, chairperson of APUI, explained that the issues it had with the previous contractor were soon resolved in time.

At the official meeting with NPC, Assistant Secretary Medardo Macaraig (Data Protection Officer), Assistant Secretary Neil Frank Ferrer (Consular Affairs) and other personnel represented the DFA. They hope the development can put the public’s concerns to rest.

“The department gives its assurance that it will continue to endeavor to improve the delivery of its consular services to Filipinos in the Philippines and overseas,” they said.

On the use of Twitter

Senator Aquilino Pimentel III warned officials like Locsin on the use of Twitter in sharing issues on government policies.

He said that verification of facts must come first before putting their opinions and comments on his personal account on a public platform.

“I play chess. I use terms like touch move… It’s difficult on Twitter. It’s hard to retract our statements,” he said.

Even before being a member of the Cabinet, Locsin has had a record of making controversial remarks on Twitter.

He disclosed the passport data breach to the public only as a response to an inquiry of a Twitter user. It was also in this manner when he clarified that the data was not stolen but only “inaccessible.”

It was also on Twitter where he implicated two contractors of DFA for passport printing—the present APUI and former contractor Francois-Charles Oberthur Fiduciare.

Former Foreign Affairs Perfecto Yasay Jr. then dragged another unit, the United Graphic Expression Corporation, supposedly involved in the controversy.

The APUI had since claimed that the FCOC successfully turned over materials to it while the UGEC was not in charge of passport printing.

On the cause of the breach, Pimentel said that he will still push through with the Senate inquiry on the matter.

“The Senate inquiry will continue. I recall that there’s another government agency whose service provider is in custody of data. Not only is this being practiced in the DFA,” he said.