Why should passport holders seeking to renew their old passports be required to present their birth certificates when this was never done before?
All these many years, birth certificates were required as proof of citizenship for all first-time passport applicants. Now we have the Department of Foreign Affairs saying that a former passport production contractor had “made off” with the records after its contract was terminated and these records must now be reconstructed by the DFA.
This story that this private contractor was able to take all the data is another matter that is difficult to accept. Is the DFA that irresponsible – that it turns over all of its official records to a private contractor? In this age of digital records, no office even has to keep shelves and shelves of official documents; It could just grant a contractor access to the records which are now kept in computers.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo was quick to reject the idea of requiring passport renewal applicants to submit original copies of their birth certificates. “This is a form of red tape that this administration frowns upon and will not tolerate,” he said.
The National Privacy Commission has been directed to look into the matter and determine whether provisions of the Data Privacy Act of 2012 have been violated with respect to the personal information in the missing data. But this is another matter — the possible misuse of the data now that it is no longer under the government’s safekeeping.
New Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin Jr. has raised the issue of what may have been an illegal termination of a government contract some years ago. That may well deserve an investigation by the appropriate government body. The Senate could also conduct a hearing in aid of legislation, such as the one it once held over the termination of the Sumitomo maintenance contract that new Metro Rail Transit (MRT) officials once cancelled.
But all these investigations and any corrective action in the issuance of passports should not unnecessarily burden the ordinary Filipino citizen merely seeking to renew an old passport. The DFA has been renewing passports, based on the previous one, all these many years. There is no need to require the ordinary citizen to produce, once again, a birth certificate, a requirement that Malacanang itself has called cumbersome, unnecessary, and nothing but red tape.