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Probe Philippine passport scam, OSG urged

MANILA, Philippines — The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) is being tapped to join a task force that may be created to look into the reported sale of Philippine passports for P500,000 to foreigners pretending to be Filipinos, Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra said yesterday.

The alleged scam involving the passports given to foreigners, including Chinese who end up working in Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs), will be investigated by this task force that would also include law enforcement authorities and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Guevarra said in an interview at the Senate, where he attended the OSG’s budget deliberations.

The DFA is looking into how the foreigners were able to apply for passports allegedly for P500,000, the Senate learned.

“This problem was not really a big one before, but it’s getting worse. It was mentioned that there is a syndicate operating regarding this. I do not want to preempt the DFA. But in time, I’m sure that a certain task force may be created,” Guevarra said.

During the OSG’s budget deliberations yesterday, Guevarra was asked by Minority Leader Koko Pimentel through the agency’s budget sponsor Sen. Sonny Angara about the OSG’s role as the state counsel in prosecuting the fake Filipino citizens.

The OSG should step in to build a case against foreigners who were able to get legitimate Philippine passports using birth certificates that were also fraudulently obtained, Pimentel said.

Guevarra said the OSG would intervene once the investigation is concluded by the DFA and the law enforcement agencies, following the arrest of foreigners who could not speak the language but were caught with Philippine passports. 

Sen. Risa Hontiveros earlier bared that foreigners were able to get Philippine passports for P500,000, which they were able to process using legitimate birth certificates with the help of accomplices in government.

During the Senate plenary deliberations on the DFA’s budget last week, senators warned that POGO workers obtained Philippine identification cards and documents that enabled them to commit crimes like kidnapping and digital scams.