Two committees of the House of Representatives have approved the consolidated bill updating the Philippine Passport Act of 1996.
The House committees on foreign affairs and appropriations has endorsed the approval of a bill which “aims to update and reflect the current laws that affect the process of issuing passports,” Cagayan de Oro City 2nd District Representative Rufus Rodriguez, a member of the foreign affairs panel and one of the authors measure, disclosed on Monday.
Among others, the bill prescribes the minimum requirements for the application of a passport, grounds and process of denial or revocation and appeal, and types of passports, their validity and those who may be issued such travel documents.
Regular passports would be valid for 10 years, except those issued to persons under 18 years of age, which would be good for only five years.
The proposed law also seeks to allow the issuance of temporary travel papers under certain circumstances, such as the urgent travel of a person who has not been issued a passport yet, or someone who has lost his or her passport. These are Emergency Travel Document, Travel Document Certificate and Convention Travel Document.
The Secretary of Foreign Affairs would be authorized to set “”reasonable fees” for the processing and issuance of passports or travel documents. Senior citizens would be entitled to a 32-percent discount.
Such fees would constitute a revolving fund the Department of Foreign Affairs may use to improve passport issuance and consular services.
Rodriguez, whose House Bill No. 6399 was included in the committee-approved measure, said there is a need to update the Republic Act No. 9239, or the Philippine Passport Act of 1996, to ensure that the Filipinos’ right to travel is not impaired.
He said such right, provided under the Constitution, “is inviolable.” But since the law’s enactment 24 years ago, he said Congress has passed at least three laws affecting the right to travel.
He identified the Domestic Adoption Act of 1998, the Citizenship and Reacquisition Act of 2003 and the Philippine Identification System Act, among others.
The consolidated House bill proposes penalties for possible violation, such imprisonment ranging from three years to 15 years, and fines of P15,000 to P2 million.
Illegal withholding of a passport, one of the prohibited acts, is punishable with a prison term of six years and one day to 12 years, plus a fine of P1 million to P2 million.
Also, if the offender is a public officer, he shall be dismissed from the service and be perpetually banned from holding public office.