Philippine Immigration Act passes House scrutiny

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The House committee on justice has unanimously approved the substitute bill on bills seeking the creation of a Commission on Immigration, defining its powers and functions, and expanding, rationalizing and further professionalizing its organization.

The unnumbered bill titled Philippine Immigration Act substituted House Bills 162, 327, 435, 1305, 1697 and 3005 authored by Reps. Feliciano Belmonte Jr., Xavier Jesus Romualdo, Evelina Escudero, Leopoldo Bataoil, Maximo Rodriguez Jr., and Winston Castelo, respectively.

The bill declares it a policy of the State that in the conduct of its relation with other States, 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.

It also states that the country's immigration policies, rules and regulations under the proposed Act shall be applied and administered as instruments for the promotion of domestic and external interests of the country.

The proposed Commission on Immigration shall be principally responsible for the administration and enforcement of the Philippine Immigration 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 Philippines 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.

The Commission will be under the control and supervision of the Department of Justice, according to the measure.

The proposed law grants the Board of Commissioners both quasi-judicial and rule-making powers.

The following are the quasi-judicial powers of the Board:

1. Decide on applications or cases relative to the following:

a. Deportation;

b. Revocation of immigration status;

c. Reacquisition and retention of Philippine citizenship under R.A. 9225;

d. Issuance and revocation of all visas and permits;

e. Declaration of indigence;

f. 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.

On the other hand, its rule-making powers are as follows:

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

2. Prepare and publish operations manual and rules of procedure, including schedule of fees, for all transactions entered into by the

Commission with the public;

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

The Commissioner and two Deputy Commissioners shall be appointed by the President of the Philippines which shall have the same rank, salary, and privileges of a Department Undersecretary and Department Assistant Secretary, respectively.

The bill grants authority to the Board to retain and use every year 50 percent of its collections from immigration fees, fines and penalties, and other income that may be collected by the Commission.

In this regard, an Immigration Trust Fund (ITF) shall also be created, which shall be administered by the Board in accordance with existing government auditing rules and regulations, according to the bill.

The measure states that the ITF shall be used exclusively for the following:

a. 40 percent for the modernization of equipment, facilities and offices used by employees of the Commission, including capital outlay for the establishment of new buildings and field offices for the effective implementation of this Act;

b. 30 percent for the payment of employees benefits provided in this Act, and as may be hereafter provided by the Board with the approval of the Secretary of Justice;

c. 30 percent for the further professionalization of the employees of the Commission, including trainings, seminars and other career advancement programs.

The bill further states that all interest income, dividends and earnings accrued from the ITF shall form part of the Trust Fund.

No portion of the ITF shall revert to the general fund of the National Government, except when the ITF is no longer necessary for the purposes for which it was established, the bill states.

Source: House of Representatives