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Monday, December 4, 2023

DOJ rules BSP deal on national ID ‘legally infirm’

Amendments to a deal between the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) to produce the Philippine Identification Cards (PhilID) are “legally infirm”—potentially delaying the distribution of the ID cards even further, a legal opinion of the Department of Justice (DOJ) released recently said.

The DOJ opinion disagreed with the proposal of BSP Governor Felipe Medalla to amend its memorandum of agreement with the PSA and its contract with AllCard, Inc. for the personalization of the PhilID card.

Although there is no legal action yet stopping the contract, court observers told the Standard the opinion could set back the production of the national IDs even further, with only 30 million of the 116 million ID cards slated for release this year.

The production and delivery of the cards was supposed to be done from 2021 to 2023, with a total budget of P3.48 billion.

Lawmakers last week scolded PSA officials over their supposed negligence in distributing the national IDs, which would replace the scores of government IDs currently required to legally identify a person in the country.

On June 10 this year, the PSA and BSP entered a memorandum for the production of 116 million pieces of cards for the period of four years to be used for the PhilIDs; and the provision, management and maintenance of the personalization equipment that will interface with the PSA System.

The PSA would then manage the PhilSys database and ensure the availability, confidentiality, integrity, accuracy, and readiness of the data that would be personalized in the BSP-produced and pre-personalized cards.

In a five-page legal opinion made public last November 9, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla disagreed with the BSP’s position that the proposed amendment is not substantial or material, thus it may be allowed under the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act No. 9184 or The Contract Implementation Guidelines for the Procurement of Goods, Supplies and Materials.

The BSP sought the DOJ’s legal opinion particularly on whether the modification of the agreement’s technical specifications to indicate monochrome personalization and amendment of the terms of reference of the card personalization contract with AllCard may be legally undertaken.

This followed the recommendation of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) to shift from the current digital colored printing—using drop-on-demand (DOD) technology—to monochrome laser engraving of the PhilIDs front-facing photograph.

This would enhance photo quality and replace the DOD printers with laser engraving printers to increase the capacity of card personalization.

NEDA issued the recommendations in a bid to achieve the government target of 50 million PhilIDs issued by the end of 2022.

Complying with NEDA’s recommendation, the PhilSys Policy and Coordination Council (PSPCC) issued a resolution approving the shift from digital colored printing to monochrome laser engraving for the PhilID card at no additional cost to the government.

It also approved signing the amended technical specifications indicating monochrome printing, which shall form part of the MOA.

The council also allowed BSP to amend its contract with AllCard for the replacement of the DOD machines with laser engraving machines and start the full implementation not later than October 1, 2022.

Considering PSPCC’s resolution, the BSP sought the DOJ’s legal opinion on the said recommendations.

“We are of the opinion that the proposed actions are legally infirm,” the DOJ said, in responding to BSP’s letter-request.

The DOJ noted that RA 9184 provides that an amendment to order may be issued in “emergency cases or during fortuitous events.”

“In the case at hand, it may be inferred that the proposed changes in technical specifications and terms of reference are to ensure that the set at 50 million PhilIDs issued at the end of 2022 are achieved,’ the DOJ stressed.

“However, it must be stressed that except in emergency cases of fortuitous events, and in cases where necessary for the protection of the goods, it is our opinion that the provisions of the guidelines pertinent to amendment to order is not applicable as there is no emergency of fortuitous event existing that would warrant the changes,” it said.

Instead, the DOJ advised BSP that it may opt to utilize item XIV (Reservation Clause) of the TOR which states: “BSP reserves the right to require the contractor to provide additional equipment, at no additional cost to BSP, in case target card personalization per day needs to be increased.”

The DOJ said applying the provision would not require amendment or modification in the contract.

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