De Lima alarmed over prevalence of passport ‘fixers’ online, seeks tostrengthen passport renewal services

De Lima alarmed over prevalence of passport ‘fixers’ online, seeks to
strengthen passport renewal services

By Ernie Reyes

MANILA — Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima expressed alarm over the
reported prevalence of passport renewal “fixers” operating online
which is worsened by the inefficiencies in government services amid
the COVID-19 pandemic.

De Lima, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Social Justice,
Welfare and Rural Development, filed Proposed Senate Resolution (SR)
No. 921 directing the appropriate Senate Committee to investigate said
passport renewal fixers to cut red tape and improve the Department of
Foreign Affairs’ (DFA) passport renewal service.

“The presence of red-tape in government transactions makes for a
veritable breeding ground for ‘fixers’ who capitalize and exploit
these systemic inefficiencies for financial gain.”

“With the accelerated migration of government services and
transactions online owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, ‘fixers’ have
followed suit and have moved their illicit operations to various
social media platforms, Facebook in particular,” she said.

“It behooves the government to undertake all necessary actions to
prevent such abuses against Filipinos in need of passporting
services,” she added.

Fixers have migrated to Facebook to capitalize on the delays in the
passport renewal services of the DFA, noting that these “fixers” have
figured out how to make multiple online reservations for passport
renewals and are profiting by selling these slots to desperate
Filipino travelers.

The Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) has already recognized the delays
in the passport renewal process and signified that they would help the
DFA in addressing these issues.

While it is a given that “fixers” are unscrupulous individuals who
knowingly prey on the vulnerabilities and desperation of others for
financial gain, De Lima said it cannot be denied that the prevailing
inefficiencies in government services are also an enabling factor in
the prevalence of such predatory practices.

“There is a need to go after these ‘fixers’ and ensure they are
punished under the full extent of the law,” she said.

“Passporting services address key human rights issues such as the
right to identity and nationality, and right to travel. If we allow
predatory individuals to restrict our citizens’ access to these
services for profit, we would also, in effect, aid and abet the
violation of the said rights,” she added.

Likewise, De Lima said DFA should invest in proper safeguards, such as
IP address tracking and blockers, and other technologies that can
reduce the possibility of fraudulent activities by these fixers.

“There is likewise need to determine how to further expunge red tape
from passport renewal services in order to improve its public services
to ensure that everyone has fair access to such services without being
preyed upon by ‘fixers’,” she said.

Ultimately, De Lima underscored the need to determine how the DFA,
ARTA and other concerned government agencies can be further
strengthened to improve passport renewal services for Filipinos. (ai/mtvn)

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