Senate probe sought into 'unprofessional, inefficient' departure protocols

Senate probe sought into 'unprofessional, inefficient' departure protocols
Passengers line up to go through immigration counters at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 in Pasay City on March 4, 2023.

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. JV Ejercito is seeking a Senate investigation into what he called the “unprofessional” and “inefficient” departure protocol implemented by the Bureau of Immigration which has recently stirred controversy after stories surfaced of snoopy immigration officers who supposedly caused passengers to miss their flights.

In Senate Resolution No. 560 filed Thursday, Ejercito said "there is an urgent need to review the processes and departure protocols being implemented by the Bureau for international-bound passengers to avert similar incidents and to ultimately protect every Filipino citizen's guaranteed constitutional right to travel."

"The power of the bureau has been a subject of abuse over the years where there have been previous incidents of its officers subjecting travelers to a tedious and unreasonable departure procedure, causing travelers to miss their flights or their departure deferred by the officer altogether," he said in a separate statement.

By the BI’s own count, more than 32,000 Filipinos were offloaded last year alone but only 472 were “found to be victims of human trafficking or illegal recruitment,” 873 individuals misrepresented themselves or submitted fraudulent documents and at least 10 were minors attempting to fly out for work.

Ejercito said these incidents call for a review of the "outdated" Philippine Immigration Act and the modernization and professionalization of the BI.

"There are pending proposals to modernize and further professionalize the Bureau as the Philippine Immigration Act of 1940 governing its operation is an 80-year old law and has outdated provisions that have ceased to be responsive to present day situations despite its several amendments and revisions," he said.

In a now-viral TikTok video, Cham Tanteras shared the details of an incident that took place before her trip to Israel at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in December 2022.

Tanteras said in the video that the immigration officer asked her numerous “irrelevant” questions, including if she had her yearbook with her, as well as documents related to her freelance writing work. She was also asked to write an "essay" about her work in Siargao.

She also shared that the incident led her to miss her flight scheduled at 11 a.m. despite supposedly lining up for immigration at 6 a.m. She said she did not get a refund nor a rebooking for the missed flight.

The BI has apologized over the incident, but still justified the lengthy screening processes its officers subject some passengers.

It said that a number of young professionals, even “those with good travel records, gainfully employed and are graduates of good schools” have been deceived by cryptocurrency scams abroad that advertise false promises of high salaries.

Scammers behind these false job advertisements have reportedly transported young Filipino professionals to Myanmar and other Asian countries and forced them to work under abuse. — Xave Gregorio


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