Immigration defends tough screening of departing Pinoys By Rudy Santos (The Philippine Star) Updated July 04, 2011 12:00 AM
MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) defended yesterday the strict screening of Filipinos departing for abroad, saying that it is necessary to prevent the exodus of victims of human trafficking, illegal recruitment and even couriers of illegal drugs.
“They should understand that we are doing this to protect our poor countrymen from being victimized by criminal syndicates who take advantage of their poverty and their desire for greener pastures abroad,” Immigration Commissioner Ricardo David Jr. said in a statement.
David said the BI’s campaign against human trafficking requires the stricter screening of departing Filipino tourists, especially those bound for countries known to be major destinations of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
He added it is only natural for immigration officers to assess the entire circumstances of all Filipino travelers to determine if the departing passenger is indeed a legitimate tourist traveling for pleasure abroad or a worker that would try to find work abroad without work-related documents.
David pointed out that human trafficking gangs or illegal recruiters usually tell their victims to pose as tourists since they only have tourist visas to circumvent the ban on the departure of undocumented OFWs.
He said that the intensified drive against human trafficking should not be an excuse for overzealous immigration officers to be arrogant and abusive towards passengers.
The bureau would not condone abusive BI agents and David urged the public to file complaints at his office against arrogant and abusive immigration officers at the airports.
Lawyer Maria Antonette Mangrobang, BI spokesperson, justified the demand by immigration officers that departing passengers present documents such as income tax return, bank accounts and employment certificates.
Mangrobang added that rigid screening is usually done on those departing for countries that are the usual jump-off points for undocumented OFWs bound for Europe and the Middle East.
Airport sources who asked not to be name said that relatives of departing passengers that were prevented from leaving have complained that the “freedom of Filipinos to travel is over, especially those who belong to the middle class of our society.”
“We have no more right to travel abroad, even though we have money to spend, poor Filipinos,” they said in Filipino.