MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Foreign Affairs is currently in touch with the National Bureau of Investigation to look into allegations of corruption in the agency's passport appointment system.
The DFA has been receiving complaints from people who were unable to book their appointment for passport application earlier than March.
DFA Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano admitted it is possible that a syndicate involving DFA personnel and travel agencies exists.
“We’re not the NBI nor are we the CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group) but we’re also not stupid so that means we know if there’s fertile ground for a syndicate,” Cayetano said during the launch of 10-year-validity Philippine passports.
In the new system, the DFA removed the 1,200 slots allotted every day for travel agencies to remove opportunities for fixers.
Cayetano also said that it is impossible for DFA personnel to extort from overseas Filipino workers through the appointment system as they are also covered by the priority lane.
“We're saying it's impossible to scam the OFWs because they don’t need an appointment. You just line up,” Cayetano said.
The DFA chief noted that the agency had removed about 50,000 bogus appointments in the past year, which were probably booked by syndicates.
Cayetano said that the DFA is set to improve its online appointment system to make it more user friendly.
According to Cayetano, the DFA website has opened up more appointment slots from January to March to accommodate the demand. He added that the rise in demand caused the backlog in passport applications, which rose by 600,000 last year.