MANILA, Mar. 4 — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) today reminded passport applicants to beware of fixers, following the arrest of over 20 individuals who sold passport appointment slots in separate entrapment operations by authorities.
A police report identified the 23 fixers, with ages ranging from 63 to 24.
Chief Supt. Tomas Apolinario, Southern Police District director, said the individuals were arrested in separate operations in ASEANA, Parañaque; in Libertad, Pasay; and in Gate 3 Plaza in Taguig.
He said the operations, which saw policemen pretending to be passport applicants, were the result of surveillance work done on different DFA offices in the National Capital Region since Feb. 15.
The surveillance was done upon the request of the Department of Foreign Affairs, following reports there were fixers selling the passport appointment slots for a fee.
Charges for violation of Republic Act No. 9485, estafa, among others, will be filed against the suspects.
In an interview, Ricarte Abejuela III, acting director of the Passport Division of the Office of Consular Affairs thanked the SPD for its swift action, as he warned fixers that they would suffer the same fate if they continue with their illegal activities, and reminded passport applicants to shun individuals who say they can offer them passport appointments for a fee.
“Scheduling an appointment online is completely free,” Abejuela reiterated adding that all Facebook postings offering passport appointments are scams.
He also 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.
To satisfy the demand, he said the DFA has even launched the Passport on Wheels (POW) program where four POW vehicles make rounds in various local government units to process applications of those waiting to secure an appointment.
Starting last February 10, the DFA also opened its Aseana office every Saturday from 8 am to 5 pm to accommodate more passport applications. The agency will also 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,” Abejuela added. (DFA)