At the start of the year, many people whose passports were up for renewal logged on to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) online Passport Appointment System. Much to their surprise, nearly all of the slots up to March 28, 2018 this year were already taken.
In fact, it is worth noting that all the slots in the DFA’s Metro Manila satellite offices were already gone. This left others no other choice but to book appointments in DFA offices outside Metro Manila such as Palawan or Tuguegarao.
However, before the first week of January was over ALL the passport appointment slots up to the end of March in ALL DFA offices all over the country were gone.
Slots taken by travel agencies and fixers?
Interestingly enough, a number of people based in Metro Manila said that they easily secured passport appointment slots with the help of travel agencies. There were also others who claimed that they resorted to transacting with “fixers.”
In fact, staunch Duterte administration supporter Sass Rogando Sassot featured on her Facebook page a complaint sent to her by a concerned citizen.
We are re-posting the concerned citizen’s letter (full and unedited) to Sassot:
I have been reading and following your blogs for quite some time now and I have seen how you have made efforts to help or raise concern on matters that impact our country or the government. I would like to request your help in escalating my concern to Sec Peter Cayetano regarding the passport appointment system in DFA.
My husband recently needed to renew his passport and tried to book an appointment online via passport.gov.ph but it seems that all 3 full monhs have been booked and blocked already in ALL locations and satellite offices. His passport is about to expire in March and the system only shows 3months so even if we wanted to book much earlier, it would have been way too early. In any case, I was surprised that, again, all appointments for the next 3 months are booked in ALL locations (check it and you’ll see!). Is this really possible??? Now I asked around and checked if any travel agencies are offering passport assistance and there seems to be a lot of them, all with available appointments on hand – and you can even select your preferred date!
When I asked how it is possible for them to secure those appointments without any applicant yet, I was told that they are being “assisted” by some DFA employees to block the schedules and in turn, they pay them. As my husband’s passport is already expiring, I used their services as I had no choice. All the schedules are blocked and I am guessing even if the appointment calendar shows 6 months, those will be blocked as well. Now, what I am really concerned about is the fee being collected. The “assistance” to schedule an appointment costs P4.500!!! this does not even include the actual passport fees. This is just for the supposedly “free” appointment schedule!!! And from what the travel agent told me, P2.500 goes to the DFA employee while the rest they keep. This is blatant corruption!!! If there are, say 30 applicants per hour on an 8-hr day, the corrupt employee is earning about P600,000 per day just blocking a whole day’s appointment in one location! I don’t think though this is just one person but there are many of them inside this government agency. It is very frustrating to know that while Tatay Digong is trying to clean up our government of corruption, this hocus-pocus blatantly exists in the agency where a lot of OFWs will be impacted. It just does not feel right to me that this practice should continue and be tolerated. Garapal ang kasakiman at pangugulang ng mga corrupt sa DFA and I cannot, for my own sanity, just sit down and just let this pass.
While I admit that I had no option but to use the “services”, I am hoping that with this letter, we can push Sec Cayetano to really look much closer into this matter and act on it. The enemy is hiding inside his fortress and he needs to find and eliminate them. If we really want a corrupt-free government, PLEASE help in stopping this practice in DFA.
Thank you very much for your attention and I hope you could help in ensuring this reaches Sec Cayetano.
For my own security, I would appreciate that you do not publish my full name. But just for your benefit that I am not making this up and that I am a real person, you can find my profile in linkedin (OF) – I work for ________, an _______ company and I am one of their executives and also a freqent traveller.
Thanks again and more power to you! God Bless!
Possible DFA glitch?
Newsbytes.PH tried to get in touch with the DFA via the following email addresses, which were published in its previous passport-related announcements:
Unfortunately, all our emails bounced. Instead of the DFA’s much-awaited answer, we got the dreaded Mailer Daemon notices. We also sent a message to the DFA’s Facebook page but we also didn’t get any answers from there.
We are also re-posting the email we sent to the DFA. Here’s hoping somebody who can give us answers will get to read it.
Date: Wed, 10 Jan 2018 15:04:26 +0800
Subject: Very Urgent: Query About Passport Appointments
I am writer for Newsbytes.ph (I have CC-ed our editor-in-chief) and I have a question about the DFA’s online passport appointment system.
Are you having problems with it or is it really for real that ALL slots in ALL your offices are already taken? I just checked it at 11 a.m. today, January 10 and every single DFA office indicates that slots are full until March 28, 2018.
If you are experiencing a glitch, please know that so many people are already worried about it not being fixed since late last year.
What is the problem? There are so many people who are claiming that fixers are already “selling” these passport appointment slots. Others also claim that travel agencies are offering them slots but for fees ranging from PHP2,000 to PHP4,500 or even PHP5,000.
Please issue an announcement or official statement about this issue. This way you can put to rest the very disturbing claims made by a number of people.
In an era where going digital is supposed to take us places, the DFA’s Passport Appointment System has left us stuck in a not-so-ideal spot.
Meanwhile, more and more irate Pinoys have expressed the frustration through written reviews on the DFA Facebook page. Here are a few of them.
Meanwhile, amid the intensified online furor over the DFA’s Passport appointment system, motoring journalist James Deakin posted a message sent to him via his Facebook page.
It seems that as of noon on Friday, January 12, slots have miraculously become available again. Deakin himself wrote this caption to accompany the screenshot of the Facebook message: “It’s a miracle!!!! Imagine the coincidence of all those people cancelling last minute. How nice of them.”
There’s no way of knowing what caused the slots to suddenly become available. Is the DFA just dealing with a system malfunction or glitch of some kind? If so, perhaps they really should be more open about the challenges they are facing. Otherwise, a lot of people will take advantage of the situation.
Bottom line: It’s still a problem and the DFA needs to fix it ASAP.