• New e-passport ‘fake’ – anti-graft advocate

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    An anti-corruption advocate on Monday claimed that the new e-passports scheduled to be released in August or September have serious flaws that may cause problems to Filipino travelers.

    Argee Guevarra, convenor of Action for Good Governance, said that the new e-passports “will not stand up to scrutiny and may cause them to be flagged as fake.”

    “Thousands of overseas Filipino workers are unwittingly headed to purgatory on earth. They may be barred entering countries of destination and held indefinitely or deported immediately after serious flaws in the passports produced for the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) by APO-UGEC (Asian Productivity Organization-United Graphics Expression Corporation) causes them to be tagged as fake,” Guevarra said at a forum held at the Manila Hotel.

    Guevara was given a copy of one of the passports.

    “Our e-passports are official documents with security features much like our currency and tax stamps. Any alteration in the design and materials that makes the new batch of Philippine e-passports different from previous batches may lead to the former being mistaken as fake. This is going to be a nightmare for Overseas Filipino Workers who will be sent back home and kept from entering their country of destination, thereby losing their jobs,” he added.

    He said that his “informants” claimed that UGEC switched suppliers for a number of materials used in passport production.

    “The unique formulation and design of these materials are security features in themselves, much like the paper and ink used for Philippine currency. Any decision or move to change these materials or their suppliers must be approved by the DFA and APO,” Guevarra said

    He called on Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano to “immediately order the cancellation of the contract with UGEC and have instead any of the three government offices to print the e-passport,” he said, referring to the sub-contract entered into by APO Production Unit (APO-OU) with UGEC.

    Only three government offices are allowed by law to print government documents and instrumentalities — the National Printing Office (NPO), the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), and APO-OU.

    “Due to poor quality, he (Cayetano) may rescind the contract by citing the breach of contract. He may alert APO to immediately to stop the printing,” Guevarra said.

    Some 650,000 to 750,000 questionable e-passports will be printed this year and some 100,000 to 200,000 passport holders will be affected immediately in 60 to 90 days if the printing of the questionable passports does not stop.

    Guevarra said former Foreign secretary Perfecto Yasay, Presidential Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo and ACTS OFW party-list Rep. John Bertiz discovered the irregularity of the subcontracting of UGEC. He said UGEC has a 10-year contract to print e-passports.

    “UGEC was already previously embroiled in the Mighty tax stamp fiasco….on its face, this was already a clear conflict of interest,” he said.

    Guevarra also hit APO Production Unit head Michael Dalumpines for not acting on the recommendation of Panelo to junk the contract with UGEC.

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