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Senators urge BI to fix offloading, passenger assessment policies

Senator Ramon Revilla Jr. believes that the Bureau of Immigration's (BI) offloading policy is a brazen disregard of the constitutionally guaranteed right to travel, saying that it may even be an outright transgression of the power of the Courts to issue Hold Departure Orders (HDO) upon cause. 'Napaka-absurd yata na yung nakagawa ng krimen, basta't walang HDO makakaalis, pero yung mga ordinaryong Pilipino na gusto lang makaranas ng bakasyon sa ibang bansa, basta-basta lang iniipit at hindi pinaaalis. Over-stepping na yan (It is absurd that criminals without HDO can depart but ordinary Filipinos, who just want a vacation abroad, are being pressured and prohibited from leaving. That is already over-stepping),' Revilla said in a statement Tuesday. This came after a viral video surfaced on social media wherein a Filipino passenger intending to travel to Israel ranted about her experience in the hands of an Immigration Officer (IO) in detail, citing "irrelevant" queries about her to the extent of demanding to produce her school yearbook. This caused the traveler to miss her flight despite being at the airport eight hours before her scheduled time of departure. According to Revilla, his office has received numerous concerns and complaints about the prevalence of arbitrary offloading at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and was in the process of investigating the matter when the issue came out. 'Tinitingnan na namin ito since last year, at eto at pumutok na. Mismong kaibigan ni Congressman Bryan Revilla na papasyal lang sa (We have been looking into this since last year, and now it blew up. A friend of Congressman Bryan Revilla who was about to travel to) Singapore was offloaded twice despite our correspondence with BI,' he shared. 'Ang katwiran ng BI, iba raw yung nasa legal at head office nila sa mga nasa airport. Wala daw silang control sa mga nasa airport. Tama ba 'yun? (The BI explained that those who are at the legal and head office are different from the personnel in the airport. According to them, they have no control over those who are at the airport. Is that right?)' Before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee concluded its probe on the alleged human trafficking in NAIA, Senator Grace Poe asked BI Commissioner Norman Tansingco about the same incident. "Alam naman natin yung napapabalita na meron tayong mga 'overly enthusiastic' Immigration Officers na kung anu-ano yung mga tinatanong, anu-ano yung mga dokumentong hinihingi. Ewan ko kung yung Immigration Officer na yun napagtripan lang yung isang pasahero kaya hiningan ng (We know about the reports that we have 'overly enthusiastic' Immigration Officers who ask so many questions, seek so many documents. I don't know if that Immigration Officer was just fooling around when he asked for the passenger's) yearbook or graduation photos. Ridiculous," Poe told Tansingco. "I know that you've already briefed them and told them what the necessary documents that may be presented. We're trying to avoid human trafficking but this is obviously frivolous. So, have you briefed your Immigration Officers, Sir?" "Upon notice of information of the particular event, I immediately called the concerned Immigration Officer (IO) and transferred him already from the airport to our office in SM North Edsa," Tansingco said, noting that the IO denied asking the passenger for a yearbook. Poe asked for CCTV footage of the incident but Tansingco said BI CCTV footage only last 30 days and it would be difficult to retrieve it, considering that it happened on December 22 last year. He said due to the incident, they are in the process of implementing reforms within the BI. "Starting today, we have retraining of our supervisors and we will be conducting also pocket trainings while at the airport. And we are reviewing also the shifting schedule of our Immigration Officers so that in case of peak hours, we have 100 percent capacity in our counters," the BI chief said. Tansingco also told the committee that he has requested that some BI regular employees be designated as acting IOs for additional manpower. He said IOs assigned to the BI Main Office would also be asked to render airport duties for the coming Holy Week as a higher volume of passengers is expected.

Source: Philippines News Agency