Senate seeks probe on passport, ID brouhaha

Senate seeks probe on passport, ID brouhaha

Senators on Sunday called for a thorough investigation into the alleged issuance of Philippine passports to foreigners, particularly Chinese nationals.

In separate interviews, Senators Imee Marcos, Francis Tolentino and Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa underscored the importance of shedding light on the incident which they tagged as a national security issue.

"This is worrisome. Hence, a thorough investigation must be conducted," Marcos said in a radio interview.

During the second day of the marathon senate plenary debates on the P5.768 trillion proposed national budget for next year last week, Dela Rosa inquired whether the Department of Foreign Affairs is aware of reports of Chinese citizens obtaining Philippine passports through authentic birth certificates issued by the Philippine Statistics Authority.

Marcos said the scheme which involves the issuance of Philippine government-issued identification cards in bulk to syndicates put the country in a bad light.

Payoffs?

"Is it nice to hear that the Philippines is a playground for all the criminals in the world? I think that sounds awful," she pointed out.

She also related the schemes to the illegal Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators companies that employed Chinese nationals from mainland China.

Over the past months, the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission conducted a series of raids on these POGO companies where they retrieved Philippine passports from foreign nationals, particularly Chinese.

The state-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation pushes for the gradual phase-out of POGO hubs in the country, which Marcos questioned.

"We should look into these once and for all. PAGCOR is pushing for the two-year gradual phaseout of POGOs which we do not understand," she said.

"They said regulations will be tightened but it was still the same. What change are they saying? Maybe it was just the people who receive payoffs from them," she added.

Tolentino, likewise, expressed his support for the call to probe the issuance of government-issued IDs to Chinese.

"Yes, I agree with that. Although I have not heard the directive but I think there should be an investigation," he stressed.

He noted that he would not be surprised if foreigners were also able to secure other government-issued IDs such as voter's ID and driver's license. "There should be an investigation into it," he said.

Meanwhile, Dela Rosa, who chairs the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, floated the possibility of recalling the proposed budget of the DFA which had hurled the Senate last week.

PSA budget recall

"They are recalling the PSA budget, although it was already approved. We may also do this with the DFA if we are not satisfied with the position paper about the actions they will take to address it," he warned.

The Senate recalled the PSA's proposed budget after Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva moved to recall it.

According to Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda, the DFA is "actively engaging" with concerned agencies such as the PSA, the Bureau of Immigration, the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police.

She also said that the appropriate criminal cases would be filed against foreign nationals who were posing as Filipinos to obtain Philippine passports.

"The DFA further noted that some of these foreign nationals themselves as persons with disability and presented authentic PWD in doing so these individuals are escorted by their immediate family members and relatives during the passport application," Legarda said.

"To address the cases of document and identity fraud, DFA is working closely with the PSA for the integration of systems that will allow our frontliners to quickly validate the authenticity of PSA documents and they're looking to sign into MoA with the PSA soonest to operationalize the foregoing," she added.

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