MANILA — The fake Philippine passports carried by 177 Indonesians who posed as Filipinos bound for Saudi Arabia, are the handiwork of a syndicate, a senior official of the exclusive printer of Philippine passports said over the weekend.
“It is the handiwork of a syndicate. I can assure you, the passports were not original,” Dominic Tajon, sales manager of the APO Production Unit’s Marketing Department, told a handful of reporters covering the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
Tajon said it would be very difficult for anyone to slip original copies of old passports because they are kept in a high-security vault controlled by the DFA.
The department had distributed the remaining old passports to different consular offices here and across the globe and has begun using the new ones.
Tajon explained that the added security features of the new passport are beyond the standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), making it difficult to duplicate them.
The Indonesians who were bound for Madinah, Saudi Arabia, on Friday were stopped by immigration authorities at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) when it was discovered that they could not speak the vernacular.
The interception of the 177 individuals alerted airport officials to tighten security due to intelligence reports that international terrorists were planning to enter the country through Mindanao and conduct bomb attacks.
“The new passport, which was officially launched last Monday, has additional security features which are very difficult to copy,” DFA Assistant Secretary Charles Jose told reporters in a press briefing last Thursday.
The security features of the new passport include different Philippine scenery, tourist spots and artifacts in every page of the passport.
Bureau of Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente has expressed surprise at the scheme, which appears to be on a much larger scale with the discovery that five Filipinos, and not two as they earlier thought, were escorting the Indonesian nationals.
The bureau also increased its vigilance against a passport racket involving foreigners who used Philippine passports to join the hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
The 177 Indonesians and their escorts were about to board Philippine Airlines (PAL) Flight PR 8969 to Madinah at 12:30 a.m. Friday when the BI Intelligence Division saw through their bogus claim of being Filipinos. Sammy Martin/PNA/northboundasia.com