"Why did he allow a private corporation to print our passports?"
It is most regrettable. All of a sudden, the hypocritical clerics have become deaf-mute about the surprisingly wholesale graft and corruption committed by their most faithful but equally hypocritical surrogate, B.S. Aquino. This fellow who became President in our seemingly God-forsaken republic has surpassed the record to consummate graft and corruption to a point of destroying the state which he, for a period in our history, stood as Chief Executive. Even if we take it that neoliberalism is now the new ideological mantra of the West and is blindly observed here by their local hirelings, they should have known that, in substance, their advocacy for privatization is not without any limitations.
Privatization need not be defined or pointed out one by one or identified which social activity in our society should not be allocated to the private sector and which should be preserved as belonging to the people. Nonetheless, instinct tells us that aspects such as national security, welfare and taxation can never be subjugated to private persons or corporations. They form part of and stand as rationale for why this country exists as an independent Republic. Every citizen who proudly calls himself a Filipino knows that the Republic can never privatize its Armed Forces because wars are fought in the name of Motherland and not in the interest of private persons or corporations.
Likewise, the State cannot relegate to private individuals and corporations the printing of our money, passports, land titles, documentary stands, enacted laws and other important documents without endangering our economy and security. To deprive the States of this rule is to deny it of its basic right to promote and maintain the welfare of our people, and to maintain social stability and order. The State is obligated to vigorously pursue economic development not just to achieve progress but to justify why it must continually collect taxes from the people and to maintain an economic equilibrium to bring about harmony in our society.
But alas, the past administration the country elected a President who seemingly could not delineate the rights of individuals which essentially include their right to property, from the right of the state which is more concerned in promoting the commonweal. The Noynoy administration, it seems, could not distinguish what sphere in our government could be privatized and what should be maintained as state-owned to justify the existence of the Republic upon which he resides as President. Unfortunately, even people who claim to be in constant communication with the Divine Providence appear to be ignorant about this demarcation.
I am writing this because I am deeply disturbed at the decision of former President Noynoy Aquino to nonchalantly award to a private corporation the printing of our passport, a security-risk function of the government that determines who, as its face value, are Filipino citizens and who are not. Even a student who has the consciousness of identifying himself as Filipino knows that it is totally absurd to consign the task of printing our passport to a private corporation; that if we cannot print our own passport, we might as well stop calling ourselves Filipinos and forget all about our status as an independent republic. I say this because Filipino passport holders are accorded and enjoy certain rights and privileges not otherwise accorded to aliens or non-Filipino passport holders. The awarding by the recklessly incompetent Noynoy Aquino government the printing of our passport to United Graphic Expression Corp. owned by a person, many of whom suspect is not even a Filipino, is telling of just how irresponsible the man who served as our President.
Those who committed themselves to consummate the syndicated contract of consigning the printing of passport were well aware of that prohibition but nonetheless tried to sidestep that by insisting that UGEC has the edge over APO-Production Unit Incorporated, a company under the Presidential Communications Operations Office. Even if there was bidding, still that would not have validated the contract to make it legal. Rather, they insisted on it because they already zeroed in on the enormous profit that that will be generated from a captive market operating on a virtual monopoly. Presidential Communications Operations Officer head Herminio Coloma, Jr. had no authority to give his subaltern Milagros Alora, the head of the APUI, the go-signal to enter into contract with UGEC as it was beyond the scope of what they are supposed to do.
If that can be proven, aside from the liability of illegally consigning the printing of our passport to a private corporation, that could equally make the former President liable. That includes the officers of UGEC headed by Inigo Zobel for conspiring to secure the awarding of the contract, which at the outset, is considered patently illegal. As described by hard-hitting columnist Rigoberto Tiglao, “it was the biggest corruption ever committed in this country.” “The JV (joint venture) is farce. APU is a token partner with just 10 percent of its ownership, with 90 percent held by UGEC and then 70 percent of its profits under the terms of its agreement with APU would go to UGEC, even as UGEC charges the JV for the use of its machines, for 700 million annually.” As a result, he said, this shadowy private firm generated P3 billion in income from 2015 to 2016, and if it continues this scheme, will get another P8 billion.
Noynoy tried to put some veneer to an already askew contract. According to Tiglao, “When Noynoy Aquino inaugurated what he and his officials called as the APU High Security Printing Plant at the Lima Technology Park in Batangas which started production en masse the e-passport on July 2016, he did not mention that the plant was almost entirely owned through the JV by UGEC and would get 70 percent of its net income for 10 years. APU’s equity in the JV was in the form of the one-tenth of the valuation of the land it has leased from the export processing zone. Ninety percent of the JV’s managers and workers were employees of UGEC, with the APU’s employees being there merely as fixtures to portray it as a joint venture.”
Clearly, it appears to be a syndicated operation to capture the contract that could generate for them so much money without a sweat so to speak. For as long as UGEC remains the holder of that highly questionable subcontracting arrangement, it would be progressively increasing its profit. This one could surmise because the number of passport applicants will progressively increase alongside the increase in our population and number of Filipinos traveling abroad. This is expected because every five years, Filipinos seeking to travel abroad will have to renew their passports, notwithstanding that every year, the cost to secure a passport increases due to production cost. It would be generating profit of about P11 billion for the expected 45-million needing passports.