Philippines probes sale of passport endorsements

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano hands out new passports with a 10-year validity during a launch at DFA ASEANA in Parañaque City on January 12, 2018. File photo by Ben Nabong/Rappl

By Paterno Esmaquel II/rappler.com – The Philippine government is investigating the sale of passport application endorsements from government agencies, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Tuesday, January 30, as criticism floods the DFA over passport application problems.

“Some people are selling endorsements from government agencies. That’s the sad reality,” Foreign Undersecretary Jose Luis Montales said in a hearing at the House of Representatives.

Montales said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) have started investigating a number of agencies behind this scheme.

Endorsements allow applicants to apply for passports without having to wait for passport application appointments. This is because endorsed applicants can use the DFA’s passport courtesy lane, where an appointment is not needed.

Thousands of other Filipinos wait for months to get a passport application appointment. (READ: DFA opens 100,000 new slots for passport appointments)

In an interview with reporters after Tuesday’s hearing, Montales said endorsements sometimes come from officials in “high positions.”

Montales, who handles consular concerns, said it is possible that these high-ranking officials do not know that criminals sell their passport application endorsements.

Montales, however, thinks the problem of selling passport endorsements is not “widespread.”

He added, “I don’t think it’s enough to affect the integrity of our online appointment system, as in fact it doesn’t, because they get appointments not through the online appointment system but through the courtesy lane.”

Still, Montales said of the perpetrators, “We will go after them and file criminal cases against them.”

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