The Philippine passports carried by 177 Indonesians who posed as Filipinos bound for Saudi Arabia were fake and the handiwork of a syndicate, a senior official of their exclusive printer said over the weekend.
“It is the handiwork of a syndicate. I can assure you the passports were not original,” Dominic Tajon, sales manager of the APO Production Unit Marketing Department, told reporters covering the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Tajon said it would be very difficult for anyone to slip original copies of old passports because they are kept in a high-security vault controlled by the DFA.
The department had distributed the remaining old passports to different consular offices here and across the globe and has started using the new ones.
Tajon explained that the added security features of the new passport are beyond the standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization, making it difficult to duplicate them.
The Indonesians who were bound for Madinah, Saudi Arabia on Friday to attend the annual Hajj pilgrimage were stopped by the Bureau of Immigration at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport from boarding a Philippine Airlines flight with their Filipino escorts when it was discovered that they could not speak the vernacular.
Their interception prompted airport officials to tighten security due to intelligence reports that international terrorists were planning to enter the country through Mindanao and conduct bomb attacks.
“The new passport, which was officially launched last Monday, has additional security features which are very difficult to copy,” DFA Assistant Secretary Charles Jose told reporters in a press briefing Thursday.
The security features of the new passport include different Philippine scenery, tourist spots, and artifacts in every page of the passport.
Bureau of Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente has expressed surprise at the scheme, which appears to be on a much larger scale with the discovery that five Filipinos, and not two as they earlier thought, were escorting the Indonesians.
The bureau also increased its vigilance against a passport racket involving foreigners who used Philippine passports to join the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. (PNA)