An opposition lawmaker representing overseas Filipino workers in the House of Representatives welcomed the decision of Malacañang to conduct its own probe into the controversial P8-billion E-Passport project of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
ACTS-OFW Partylist Rep. Aniceto “John” Bertiz III noted that investigation on the issue will now center on the alleged anomalous subcontracting of the project to a private entity when there have been serious apprehensions raised over the security aspect of the passporting program.
Further, Bertiz noted that the subcontractor, United Graphic Expression Corporation has been facing serious financial troubles when it was awarded the contract by the previous administration.
The 10-year contract for the printing of passports had been awarded by the DFA to APO-Printing Unit (APO-PU), a quasi-government entity, which, in turn, subcontracted it to UGEC, a private company.
Branded by Bertiz as a dubious firm with only P800 million in assets and some P200 million in cash, UGEC is heavily in debt. ‘‘UGEC was hastily created during the past administration with a very small capital [that is smaller than the amount of the contract]. There are people who benefited and pocketed [the money],” he said.
“What we originally probed was the delay in the issuance of passports but it opened a Pandora’s box that there was illegality in the contract of the DFA with APO-PU and UGEC. The issuance of the passport was delayed because UGEC is heavily indebted,” Bertiz stressed during a recent seminar sponsored by Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute in Manila.
In 2012, the Lower House conducted an investigation into the project after several congressmen objected to the Department of Foreign Affairs’ decision to allow the printing of the passport to be subcontracted to a French company.
Another probe was initiated by the Lower House two years later, this time singling out the security problems that may arise if private companies are allowed to implement the project.
Source: Manila Bulletin