Palace reviewing legality of 2 firms’ deal in passport production

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MALACAÑANG ON Tuesday said it is currently reviewing the legality of the joint venture agreement between APO Production Unit, Inc. (APUI) and United Graphic Expression Corporation (UGEC) on passport production.

In a press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said his office has already received a copy of the joint venture contract.

“We are still evaluating whether it contravenes the intent of the law, because according to — there are some lawyers who are saying that the joint venture, puwede (is allowed),” he said.

He added that their assessment so far points to the need for the submission of other documents such as the “original contract between the foreign corporation that was handling it before it was taken over from it.”

In a social media post on Jan. 12, former Foreign Affairs secretary Perfecto R. Yasay, Jr. said that in 2015, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) awarded — “without bidding on condition that no part of the contract can be subcontracted or assigned to a private printer” — the operation of the electronic passport system to state-run APUI, an attached agency of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO).

“In stark violation of that condition, APUI engaged the services of the United Graphic Expression Corporation for the production of the new E-passports,” Mr. Yasay said, adding that the contract to APUI was awarded even amid a still “subsisting” contract from 2006 between the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and Francois-Charles Oberthur Fiduciare (FCOF).

Mr. Yasay also said that on Feb. 10, 2017, Mr. Panelo, as chief presidential legal counsel, “determined that the assignment of the passport printing services to UGEC was illegal and demanded that all rights over all the personal data, source code, data center and other information relating to the performance of the E-passports printing services unlawfully subcontracted to UGEC be reconveyed to the DFA or be acknowledged to be exclusively owned and controlled by the DFA.”

Mr. Panelo explained that his previous opinion on the matter was not conclusive because it was based on incomplete documents.

“The documents were incomplete, so I could not give a conclusive opinion on the matter…. So we’ve been asking them to give us all the documents relative to that matter,” he said in a briefing on Jan. 14. — Arjay L. Balinbin