Filipino bishop wants probe into 'passport data loss'

Outcry erupts after govt announces possible personal data breach affecting all country's passport holders
Filipino bishop wants probe into 'passport data loss'

Thousands of Filipino migrant workers will be affected by new requirements in the renewal of passports because of the reported breach in the Philippine passport data system. (Photo courtesy of the Presidential Communications Office)


A senior Philippine Catholic bishops' conference official has called for an urgent investigation into the reported loss of personal data on all Philippine passport holders.

Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga, head of the Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People, said those responsible for the breach should be punished.

"No sacred cows, those guilty should be prosecuted," said the prelate, adding that migrant workers have been affected because of new requirements for the renewal of their travel papers.

Bishop Santos said requiring birth certificates be submitted in the renewal of passports has become a burden for migrant workers.

"They have not been properly notified, and it poses difficulties in terms of time and expenses," said the bishops.

Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. earlier announced that a private foreign ministry contractor "took all" passport data when the government terminated its contract.

Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros proposed a Senate investigation into the supposed passport data loss because it does not inspire confidence in the government to protect data.

The senator said the implications of the loss are "vast" and leaves people vulnerable to identity thieves who can use the sensitive information such as to illegally access their bank accounts.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo described the reported data loss as a "serious and grave matter."

Bishop Santos said to investigate, to correct the mistakes and mess, and to punish the guilty would be a "a great service to the country, especially to migrant workers."

National Police chief Oscar Albayalde said the passport debacle posed a threat to the country's security and people's identities.

Personal information available includes the full name, date and place of birth of passport holders.

Reacting to calls for an investigation on Jan. 15, Locsin later declared there was no data breach or loss after all.

"Data is not run-away-able but made inaccessible. Access denied," he said in a Twitter post.

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