Thursday, June 20, 2019

Malilong: Losing our privacy via the DFA

APPLICANTS for a new passport are lucky if they can get the precious document in three months. Unless you are a senior citizen, you have to book an appointment with the consular office of the Department of Foreign affairs online. The office, especially in Cebu, seems to be always fully booked, however, which is not surprising, considering that it serves the entire region.

Once you have hurdled the booking part, the process becomes easier provided that you have your birth certificate. The certificate of live birth issued to your parents by the office of the civil registrar which you used when you enrolled in school or got married is, however, not sufficient. You have to secure one from the National Statistics Office.

Renewing your passport was easier because all you needed to do was present your expiring one. Why am I talking in the past tense? Because if you’re among the “some” passport holders whose data have been stolen by the previous outsourced passport maker, you have to go through the same process again of presenting your NSO-certified birth certificate.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said the passport maker was pissed off when its contract was terminated and took away all the data of the affected passport holders. “We are rebuilding our files from scratch,” Locsin said.

The hassle of presenting our birth certificate again to the consular office is bearable. What is disturbing is that all our personal data are now in the hands of someone who was never authorized by us. This is not only a national security issue as Locsin said, this is unwarranted invasion of our privacy.

When we applied for a passport, we never had any inkling, because we were not told, that it is not the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) but somebody else that the DFA hired, that will process our application and in the course thereof, store our data in its own private computer. As it turned out, that somebody ran off with our data and the government is powerless to retrieve them. How can we ever trust the government again with our personal details?

It’s disturbing, really.


The shortest distance between two points isn’t always a straight line as we were told in college mathematics. Or something akin to a straight line.

My former law partner, Lando Lim, learned this the hard way last Thursday when he went to Bai Hotel for the Walk and Talk weekly lunch from City Hall. The shortest distance would have been through M.J. Cuenco Ave. but finding all access to the highway either closed or choking with traffic, Lando decided to go west.

Big mistake. From City Hall, Lando went to V. Rama, through Magallanes and Leon Kilat, hoping easier access to the pier area through Gen. Maxilom. But at B. Rodriguez, he found Fuente Osmeña inaccessible because of the traffic, so he turned left to Chong Hua and from there to the Capitol, OPRRA, Camp Lapulapu, Banilad road and A.S. Fortuna. All in all, the trip took two hours.

Lando’s experience was caused by our observance of the feast of the Sto. Niño. There are just too many worshipers trooping to the Basilica.

I met some of them last Friday at the 1 p.m. novena mass. We were seated across the giant monitor near the Magellan’s cross and it was very hot. Fortunately, some volunteers noticed our plight and carried a tent to shelter us. We were all asked to give way to them so we all rose from our chairs. Imagine my disbelief when as soon as the tent was installed, a mob came over to grab our seats!

And how solemnly they looked reciting the Lord’s Prayer and how enthusiastically they chanted Pit Señor! No wonder President Duterte remains popular no matter how he insults the church and how many times he has asked his faithful to harm enemy bishops and priests.


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