By Mario Casayuran
Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros said yesterday the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) owes the entire country an explanation.
Hontiveros said the recent admission that a privately contracted firm took the entire physical database of all of the country’s passport holders ‘’indicates a serious national security risk, and is evidence of the Duterte government’s gross incompetence in protecting the people’s private data.’’
‘’Exactly what data were lost? When, how, and under whose watch did this happen? Where did the breakdown occur? Who exactly is the responsible firm? And why aren’t they being sued for running away with such vital information?’’ she asked.
Queried on whether the DFA leadership should file charges against the private passport contractor because the database contained public documents, Senate President Vicente C. Sotto said the DFA knows what to do.
Sotto said DFA Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin appeared not to be alarmed by the situation but is certainly irked (inis lang.)
But to Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon, the DFA should file charges if the private contractor refuses to return the passport database.
Drilon said the DFA should compel the contractor to return the database because documents such as birth certificates are public documents ‘’and it would cause a lot of inconvenience.’’
Being a 73-year-old legislator, Drilon said he would have difficulty retrieving or coming up with his birth certificate because government operations in the ‘40s were not yet computerized.
Hontiveros said the public needs to be reassured that the data would be retrieved completely and with the highest sense of urgency and priority.
‘’Apart from that, the people responsible for such a gross display of incompetence should be held fully responsible,’’ he said.
‘’They say, “go out and see the world.” But how can our people do that if our government can’t even provide efficient passport application and renewal services to the public? Worse, it can’t be trusted to protect the citizens’ sensitive data,’’ she added.
Hontiveros said the Duterte government ‘’has made a lot of promises about protecting our safety, our sovereignty and our territory.’’
‘’If we cannot trust it to protect our people’s documents, how can we trust it with anything else? ‘’ she stressed.