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AFP: Strengthen immigration procedures to keep terrorists out

Armed Forces of the Philippines Spokesperson Brig.Gen. Restituto Padilla dispels rumors that Maute terror group can launch attacks in other cities like Iligan and Cagayan de Oro during the Mindanao Hour press briefing at the New Executive Building in Malacañang on June 16, 2017. General Padilla added that the Maute group no longer have the numbers to sow terror. Presidential Photographers Division/Jay Lozano

MANILA, Philippines — The military on Monday called for stricter immigration procedures after it received reports that some terrorists entered the country through its airports.

Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, the Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson, said in a press conference on Monday that it is important to strengthen immigration procedures because some terrorists in the country had stamped passports and flew into the country.

“Kailangan patibayin o palakasin natin ang ating procedures sa immigration. Ito ang unang line of defense natin eh,” Padilla said.

Last May, immigration counters at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport terminals faced problems when only a few immigration officers were available to process passengers’ documents.

Immigration supervisors and agents from other airport units such as travel control and enforcement had to man the vacant counters and function as immigration officers.

This came after a crisis that had been brewing since April over the unpaid overtime salaries of Bureau of Immigration officers, which had previously been funded by collections from express lane fees collected from foreigners who wanted their travel papers processed quickly. The use of the fees was vetoed in the national budget for 2017 because money had already been allocated in the 2017 General Appropriations Act.

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Red Mariñas, BI Port Operations Division chief at NAIA, said in April that 35 immigration officers had resigned by April, with more planning to quit.

Review of Human Security Act pushed

Padilla added that the Human Security Act or the Republic Act 9372 should also be reviewed.

“Kaya nga noong nakaraang linggo iminungkahi natin na kinakailangan siguro tignan nang mabuti ‘yong Human Security Act para mas maging matibay ‘yong mga puwedeng gawin para harangin ‘yong pagpasok ng ganitong klaseng indibidwal,” he said.

Passed into law in 2007, RA 9372 deals with terrorism and is meant to “protect life, liberty, and property from acts of terrorism, to condemn terrorism as inimical and dangerous to the national security of the country and to the welfare of the people, and to make terrorism a crime against the Filipino people, against humanity, and against the law of nations.”

A few days after President Rodrigo Duterte's declaration of martial law in Mindanao, the government said that foreign terrorists were killed in a clash between government troops and ISIS-inspired terror groups.

Gen. Eduardo Año, AFP chief, confirmed that three Malaysians, Indonesian and possibly Arab extremists have been killed in Marawi City as the military made advances in containing the siege in the city.

RELATED: Truce with communist rebels eyed amid Marawi siege

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