ONE FOR THE ROAD

James Deakin

Just when you thought they couldn’t go any lower, it seems like the passport appointment fixers are back and scalping reservation spots to desperate Filipinos looking to renew their passports. And yes, I know this topic has come up many times over the years, but to do it during a pandemic? That’s a whole new low. As if people aren’t suffering enough as it is. Shame on you, parasites. Shame on you all.

Now just to be fair and crystal clear, this is not a hit on the DFA. This is about those individual garapatas (fleas) that position themselves in between the Filipino and their basic rights so they can extort them for it. This is solely to call the attention of the DFA to let them know that the leeches have found their way through the appointment system and figured out how to monetize it. Again.

So please invest in the proper safeguards, like IP address tracking and blockers, and any technology that eliminates multiple reservations for scalpers. Because as it is, people in NCR have reported traveling as far as Ilocos Norte just to get an earlier appointment, after feeling that the online appointment seems to be operating like a rigged bingo game.

One reader, who wishes to be known only as Roxanne, who applied under a “life and death situation” passport renewal appointment on Sept. 1 said the soonest available date was in 2022.  She goes on in her email to explain “So out of desperation, I joined this passport appointment assistance group on Facebook, where they help people secure a slot for a fee. Luckily one member of the group posted that DFA Aseana had opened a few slots for September.”

What a miracle, huh? You can’t get it from the DFA, but you can get it from Facebook. For a fee. And if you do a quick scroll through my inbox, you’ll see that exact same tale repeated over and over again by one tired and desperate Filipino after another.

Another reader, Kim, who tagged me on Twitter, along with DFA Secretary Locsin says:

“My passport renewal journey started when I got hired for a cruise ship last June, but I could not book an appointment because there were no slots available. On July 05, The DFA announced that they will be opening five special off-site locations in the National Capital Region on Wednesday, 07 July to provide an additional 177,500 passport appointment slots to the public in the NCR Plus area and it was really good news for me.”

“On the same day, I booked my appointment last and the problem started from there. When the DFA launched the TOPS (Temporary Off-site Passport Services) the people had been dying to get one of those slots. I tried booking an appointment that day and it was long exhausting day — I filled up the form and chose the desired branch and date/time.”

“After filling up the form correctly I was redirected to the payment section. I was trying to pay for my appointment but the payment button wasn’t working and was not able to pay it. So I tried again and again and again and I encountered other problems like application already exist, but I didn’t receive any application code/confirmation.”

I could give more examples, but I’m sure you get the drift. I received over 2,000 messages and comments on the day I wrote this piece; I’ve left it up on my Facebook page if anyone wants to go into more detail, but suffice to say, that the common thread is mainly around the appointment scheduling and how they are being sold again by fixers.

So I appeal to the DFA to please introduce a system that tracks IP addresses or multiple bookings from the same accounts.

Fixers are nothing new. And there’s no set-and-forget system to deal with them. This is a perpetual battle. A fixed business cost. Because just like any mutant virus, fixers also evolve, which means the DFA must evolve even quicker and maintain an active team of dedicated cybersecurity professionals that use  the latest technology to stay one step ahead of them.


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