House approves conversion of BI to CI

The House subcommittee on immigration, naturalization and deportation chaired by Rep. Arnulfo Fuentebella (4th District, Camarines Sur) this week approved a substitute bill seeking to convert the Bureau of Immigration (BI) into a Commission on Immigration to make it more responsive to the needs and challenges of the times.

The unnumbered bill titled The Philippine Immigration and Homeland Security Act substituted House Bills 162, 327, 435, 1305 and 1697 authored by Reps. Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. (4th District, Quezon City), Xavier Jesus Romualdo (Lone District, Camiguin), Evelina Escudero (1st District, Sorsogon), Leopoldo Bataoil (2nd District, Pangasinan), and Maximo Rodriguez, Jr. (2nd District, Cagayan de Oro City), respectively.

Bataoil said despite several amendments and reorganizations made on the BI, there is still an urgent need to amend or revise Commonwealth Act No. 613, otherwise known as The Philippine Immigration Act of 1940 to be more responsive to the present times and for a wider scope of functions and jurisdictions.

Bataoil said the present BI was created through the Philippine Immigration Act of 1940 (Commonwealth Act No. 613).

It became an attached agency of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and when martial law was declared in 1972, the Bureau of Immigration was renamed Commission on Immigration and Deportation.

The agency reverted to its original name the Bureau of Immigration sometime in 1987 by virtue of Executive Order No. 292 signed by President Corazon Aquino.

Belmonte said the BI should be clothed with a renewed mandate to deliver world-class immigration services that will promote the country's image in the international community as a safe tourist destination and a potential investment site.

Belmonte also said that globalization has brought about mass human migration and ushered in the birth of international criminal syndicates engaged in human trafficking, drug trafficking and terrorism. Aside from law enforcement, the impact of globalization on immigration can be felt in the economy as evidenced by the influx of foreigners coming to the country for business, pleasure or employment.

Escudero said there is a need to modernize structures and mechanisms necessary for the administration of immigration laws in keeping with the changing demands of the country's role in the global community.

The bill declares it is a policy of the State that the Philippines shall give paramount consideration to national sovereignty, territorial integrity, national security, national interest, the right to self-determination, the enhancement of economic diplomacy, and the protection of overseas Filipinos in destination countries, as it adheres to the policy of peace, cooperation and amity with all nations.

The bill creates the Commission on Immigration or Commission which shall be principally responsible for the administration and enforcement of the Act, and the implementation of all laws, rules, regulations or orders of any competent authority concerning the entry and admission into, stay in, and the departure from the country of all persons.

The Commission shall be administered by the Board of Commissioners headed by the Commissioner as Chairperson, and two Deputy Commissioners as members, all of whom shall be natural-born citizens of the Philippines and, at the time of their appointment, at least 35 years of age, holders of a college degree and with proven capacity for administration.

The functions and powers of the Board are (a) quasi-judicial: 1. Decide on applications and/cases relative to deportation; revocation of immigration status; reacquisition and retention of Philippine citizenship under Republic Act (RA) 9225; issuance and revocation of all visas and permits; declaration of indigence; and legalization of residence in accordance with law.

2. Cite and punish for contempt in relation to the discharge of its quasi-judicial functions in accordance with the Rules of Court.

(b) rule-making:

1. Prescribe and promulgate rules of procedure for proceedings before it;

2. Prepare and publish operations manual and rules of procedures, including schedule of fees, for all transactions entered by the Commission with the public; and

3. Formulate policies, directives, programs and projects of the Commission.

The Board shall also perform such other powers, projects and programs of the Commission.

As provided under the bill, the Commissioner shall be appointed by the President and shall have the same rank, salary, and the privileges of an Undersecretary of a Department.

Likewise, the two Deputy Commissioners shall be appointed by the President. They shall have the same rank, salary and privileges of an Assistant Secretary of a Department.

The bill includes provisions regarding immigration (non-immigrants, immigrants, native-born foreign national, adjustment of status, documentation and admission of non-immigrants and immigrants, visa issuance, among others); provisions relating to entry; deportation; and miscellaneous provisions.

Source: House of Representatives

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