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Philippines to Probe Foreign Secretary's Claim Data Was Stolen

Philippines’ Secretary for Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin Jr. (Photo: REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw)

By Clarissa Batino and Claire Jiao

The Philippines privacy watchdog will investigate allegations by Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin that a disgruntled contractor made off with personal passport data and other documents held by the department.

The National Privacy Commission will look into “the Department of Foreign Affairs assertion that a private contractor has caused the non-availability of Filipino passport data and other documents entrusted to it for processing,” the agency said in a statement on Saturday. The commission will summon the department and other concerned agencies, including the contractor, according to the statement.

Locsin, on his personal Twitter account, said on Jan. 8 that a contractor involved in producing passports “made off with data” after being terminated. Earlier, department spokesman Elmer Cato issued an advisory on Twitter saying that people renewing passports should submit their birth certificates “because we need to capture and store the document in our database as we no longer have a physical copy of the document submitted when they first applied.”

The foreign affairs department hasn’t issued a statement nor provided information on the extent of the alleged theft.

Former Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay said in a Facebook post that the department in October 2015 awarded the production of electronic passports to a contractor, which subcontracted the printing to another vendor in violation of terms.

Data privacy lawyer Cecilia Soria was among those who took to Twitter to react to the alleged theft.

Journalist Inday Espina-Varona also weighed in.

Locsin said he just wants it “fixed and not repeated.”


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