DFA on passport mess: 'No assurance on safety and security of some data'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 15) — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) finally issued an official statement on the possible personal data leak of passport holders.

This, after DFA Secretary Teodoro "Teddyboy" Locsin Jr. tweeted last week on the matter, sparking panic among citizens.

"Only a Senate investigation will assure the public that there was no breach or loss of data. Until then, the Department can give no assurances on the safety and security of some data," the DFA said in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon.

The DFA added that it will take the word of APO Production Unit, Inc. (APUI)- the government's contractor on printing passports - that there is "no breach in passport data and as sufficient justification in removing the birth certificate requirement in the renewal of passports."

Locsin earlier said the personal data of millions of passport holders is not "runaway-able" but remains inaccessible.

"Data is not run-away-able but made inaccessible. Access denied," the DFA chief wrote on his official Twitter account.

On January 8, Locsin stirred panic after revealing a disgruntled outsourced passport maker "took all the data" when their contract was terminated.

He said he was told by APUI that they can finally access the passport data, but it was not as useful and parts of it were corrupted.

"It was hostile but APO told me yesterday they found a way into Oberthur's system but the data was not all that important and parts of it corrupted," Locsin tweeted.

The Oberthur he mentioned is Francois Charles Oberthur Fiduciaire, the French company that allegedly took government data.

APUI chairperson Michael Dalumpines said Oberthur Technologies has turned over all the printing machines and the data it contains. APUI replaced the French firm, which was the previous contractor that printed e-passports for the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Dalumpines also clarified the reason why DFA is requiring applicants to provide birth certificates to renew their passports.

He said only those with old green and machine-readable passports are required to present their birth certificate, adding this is because older passports lack the security features of the new e-passports, and a birth certificate provides an extra layer of security to avoid fraud.

Locsin tweeted on Tuesday he has signed the order removing birth certificate requirement for passport renewals.

APUI also clarified that its subcontractor, United Graphic Expression Corporation (UGEC) does not print passports. He said UGEC only helps with APO's finances and the acquisition of equipment, which are operated entirely by APUI personnel.

Playing the blame game?

Locsin also tweeted on Tuesday he has signed the order removing birth certificate requirement for passport renewals.

"I will sign end of birth certificate for passport renewal. See what happens when you rattle the cages and get the monkeys screeching their innocence-as if I accused anyone in particular of corruption-and their hyenas howling," Locsin said.

However, on Sunday, Locsin tweeted that he will "autopsy the yellows" in relation to the passport mess, and also pointed to the administration of former President and current House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

READ: 'I will autopsy the yellows': Locsin vows to identify people behind passport mess

In an interview with CNN Philippines News Night, Locsin also brought up an unnamed "retired top diplomat," later cited as a "minor official."

"We never thought it was useful," Locsin quoted the unnamed diplomat as saying.

Lawmakers from the Senate and House of Representatives have filed resolution to look into the issue. The National Privacy Commission will meet with the DFA on Wednesday to determine the scope of the passport data mess.

Meanwhile, Locsin will continue to be active on Twitter.

"Any of those issues - the people needing this, the people needing that - if I don't light fires, do you think it would have been done? I would have been like any old Secretary of Foreign Affairs who sits there and doesn't help the people," he told CNN Philippines.

He added that he would rather comment about art, literature and political events.

This was not the first time Locsin came under fire for his behavior on social media. Back in 2016, Locsin shared that his daughters had deleted the Twitter app from his phone.

This was after he had tweeted controversial statements on the Nazi regime and how the drug war in the Philippines needs a "final solution like the Nazis adopted". He also has a penchant for swearing at people on news sites.

On Tuesday, Locsin also deleted a tweet on his personal account where he swore at a netizen and said that "madani pang tatae ng dugo."

READ: Teddyboy Locsin: I'll be more careful with my tweets