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NBI may investigate Filipinos who pawn passports twice, says consul

18 July 2019

ATN head Consul Paulo Saret (in black jacket) inspects some of the 1,320 passports used by workers as collateral at OFC. turned over by the police to the Consulate. At left is ATN officer Arnel de Luna.

By Vir B. Lumicao

Filipinos caught using their passports twice as collateral for loans may be referred to the National Bureau of Investigation for questioning in line with a recent Foreign Service Circular, said Consul Paul Saret, head of the Consulate’s assistance to nationals section.

Saret issued the warning as he confirmed that all the 1,320 Philippine passports seized by the police from lending company OFC last month had been turned over to the Consulate.

The passports will not be returned to the holders, so they will have to apply for a renewal of their documents. They will be issued passports valid for only five years, instead of the usual 10.

In addition, they will be put on a watch list and if they commit the same offense, will not be able to apply for a new passport in Hong Kong but will be referred to the Department of Foreign Affairs office in Manila to secure a replacement.

All those found to have hocked their passports twice will face the stiffer sanction of being referred to the NBI for “appropriate action”. It is not, however, clear if that will mean charges being filed against them, or summary penalties imposed.
“Kasi ang nakalagay doon sa Foreign Service Circular issued by the DFA ay non-issuance of passport and referral to the NBI for appropriate action,” Saret said.

“Basically, under the Philippine Passport Act, yung improper use of passports ay may penalty rin, so if you use it as collateral, that will be considered as improper use (because the purpose is for) proper identification of a Filipino when traveling abroad,” he added.

With the return of the record haul of passports, ATN staff  have had their hands full documenting each, while at the same attending to applications for renewal from the holders.
Saret said the employment contracts found tucked into the passports had been returned to the workers.

As of Jul 11, he said about 200 holders of the recovered passports had already applied for renewal.
OFC staff being besieged by clients after the Jun 5 raid

Although police had told The SUN that a total of 1,400 passports were seized in a raid on OFC on Jun 5, ATN staff said the bigger figure given could be due to some old passports being stuck on to new passports of the same persons.

The owner of OFC, a certain Mr Wong, was arrested during the raid but released on police bail after initial questioning.  Investigations are still going on.

Saret said renewal ordinarily costs $480, but those who hocked their passports will also have to pay $200 for an affidavit with an undertaking not to do so again.

Those whose passports are not among the pile turned over by the police will have to apply for replacement of lost passport, which will cost $1,200 plus $200 for the affidavit.
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