DFA warns public anew vs. passport 'slots for sale' schemes on social media

Published June 21, 2021, 12:06 PM

by Roy Mabasa

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Monday warned the public anew against social media advertisements offering passport appointment slots in exchange for a fee following mounting complaints of difficulty in securing online passport application schedules due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic.

Philippine passport

In a statement, the DFA admitted that several cases of fake documents from unwitting applicants who claimed to have secured them through social media have turned up at the DFA in recent weeks.

It added that demand for passport services has become pronounced as the various Consular Offices in the region, mostly located inside malls, have had to cease operations in line with the declaration of ECQ and MECQ in the NCR Plus area in March and April, resulting in limited passport appointment slots.

The DFA claimed that while it was able to offer more than 13,000 passport appointment slots per day before the pandemic, only 6,100 slots per day are available now because of restrictions in venue capacity and strict implementation of health and safety protocols such as physical distancing.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Civilian Security Brigido Dulay whose office is in charge of the chaotic passport system said 10 temporary satellite offices will be opened to create additional passport slots.

These temporary satellite offices, he said, will create an additional 2,500 slots in Metro Manila initially and another 2,500 in other regions experiencing a high demand.

While the DFA assured that it continues to provide courtesy lane access to qualified applicants such as OFWs with urgent need to travel, pregnant, elderly and minor applicants, as well as persons with disability and solo parents, several bonafide individual applicants, however, told the Manila Bulletin that the online system for that category is already clogged as of this writing.

On Monday, a female netizen called the attention of Dulay by asking the latter to see for himself the blatant advertisements of groups posting passport appointment services on Facebook.

She said the groups were charging between P800 to P1,000 for the services on top of the passport fee.

“Ang mga tao kumakagat na sa ganoong kalakaran kase nga po sobraaang tagal ng availability ng slot online (The people are obliged to accept that system because of the long wait in the availability of slot online),” she said.

In which Dulay responded by even telling the netizen to report it herself to authorities if she has any knowledge of such a scheme.

“Isuplong ninyo po sa amin o sa PNP Cybercrime Unit at NBI Anti-Fraud Unit kung may nalalaman po kayong nagbebenta ng appointment slots. Bawal po yun (Report to us or to the PNP Cybercrime Unit and the NBI Anti-Fraud Unit if you have any knowledge of those selling appointment slots. That’s prohibited),” the DFA official told the female netizen in a tweet.

In which Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin Jr. replied by ordering Dulay to “report it ourselves” as part of the department’s team-effort-whole-of-nation approach.

Pandemic or non-pandemic, passport has become a perennial problem for the department even with the so-called modernization of the passporting system.