MANILA – At least 23 individuals who sold passport appointment slots were arrested in separate entrapment operations in DFA-ASEANA, Parañaque, Pasay and in Taguig, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced on Sunday.
Chief Supt. Tomas Apolinario, Southern Police District (SPD) director, said policemen acted out as passport applicants as a result of its surveillance work done on different DFA offices in the National Capital Region since Feb. 15.
The suspects were nabbed on Thursday and will face charges for violation of Republic Act 9485 or the Anti-Red Tape Act and estafa, among others.
Ricarte Abejuela III, acting director of the Passport Division of the Office of Consular Affairs, thanked the SPD for its swift action, further warning fixers of a similar fate if they continue with their illegal activities.
The DFA official also reminded passport applicants to shun individuals who claim they can get passport appointments for a fee.
“Scheduling an appointment online is completely free,” Abejuela said, adding that all Facebook postings offering passport appointments are scams.
He noted that the DFA opens slots daily for the March to June schedule passport appointments.
“Applicants should just be prompt and alert because the demand is so high we run out of slots very fast,” Abejuela said.
A police report identified the 23 fixers as Nenita Ugalde, 63; Noelito Ventura, 46; Marlon Narvaez, 35; Amalia Tagarilo, 44; Marilyn Tabay, 52; Michael Montel, 42; Alejandra Sacdalan, 48; Jonathan Tagarino, 46; Yolanda Villanueva, 45; Gina Carbon, 47; Maila Caluya, 47; Ligaya Banares, 63; Zaldy Pelonia, 52; Lilia Felix, 54; Roselyn Oliveros, 28; Rosalinda Zamora, 40; Criza Mae Castor, 24; Aileen Casita, 51; Marivic Arojo, 33; Mark Justine Doromal, 29; Ricardo Rojas, 50; Vilma Evite, 46; and Evangeline Soriano, 52.
The surveillance, according to the DFA, was done upon its request following reports regarding fixers selling the passport appointment slots for a fee.
MEETING THE DEMAND
As the DFA tries to resolve the problems in its passport appointment system, it assured the public it is conducting initiatives to at least satisfy demand.
Abejuela said the DFA has already launched the Passport on Wheels (POW) program where four POW vehicles make the rounds of various local government units to process applications of those waiting to secure an appointment.
The DFA also started Saturday operations at Aseana office since February 10 to accommodate more passport applications.
It also has plans to open eight more consular offices and launch an e-payment system to make things easier for passport applicants.
“Let us not patronize these unscrupulous individuals. Rest assured that the DFA is doing its best to offer the best services to the public,” he said.