PH Immigration law in dire need of update to stop corruption – BI chief

Robie de Guzman   •   November 11, 2020   •   962

MANILA, Philippines – Bureau of Immigration (BI) Commissioner Jaime Morente on Wednesday expressed his belief that the Philippine Immigration Act of 1940 is “very old” and is in dire need of updating to solve the alleged corrupt activities in the bureau.

“The Philippine Immigration Act is a very old law, 80 years old to be exact,” Morente said in a statement.

“I have talked to the President and raised this concern to him,” he further stated.

Morente said that since the law was enacted during a time when there were no international flights yet entering and leaving the country, “many of its provisions are already outdated and inappropriate already.”

The BI chief said updating the law would “answer salary woes, remove systemic issues, plug loopholes in policies, update fines and penalties, ensure division of power, and confer to the Commissioner the proper disciplinary powers.”

The proposal to revisit the country’s immigration law was pushed following corruption issues allegedly involving some of the bureau’s personnel.

More than 80 officials and employees of the Immigration bureau are facing investigation and charges before the Office of the Ombudsman over allegations of accepting bribes in exchange for escorting Chinese and other foreign nationals who wish to dodge the immigration screening process in airports.

The scheme was called “pastillas,” named after a local soft milk candy, because the bribe money that some personnel receive are concealed inside rolled up papers resembling the dessert.

According to Morente, they have already implemented measures to address corruption in the bureau.

“The short-term solution is relieve all those found to have been involved in corrupt practices, hence we relieved all names implicated in the Pastillas issue, and implemented a one strike policy for anyone who tries to follow suit,” he said.

“The medium-term solution is reorganizing the system,” he added as he revealed that the supervision of the bureau’s Travel Control and Intelligence Unit and the Border Control and Intelligence Unit have been transferred under a different division to “add layers of checks and balances.”

Morente said the move will “serve as a sort of audit to the actions of those in the Port Operations Division, and dismantles any semblance of a central control of possible illegal activities.”

He, however, stressed that the real and long-term solution is the updating of the Philippine Immigration Act.

“We can remove people again and again, but the loopholes in the law remain. Quick wins may cure some symptoms in the anti- corruption drive but a responsive new Immigration law may yet cure systemic problems that breed corruption,” he said.

The BI chief earlier lamented that under the existing law, he has no disciplinary powers over his personnel, as “the power to hire and fire rests with the Secretary of Justice.”

The Immigration bureau is an attached agency of the Department of Justice.

Morente said the proposal to amend the Philippine Immigration law is already in Congress and called for its immediate passage.

“We thank our lawmakers for the support in our move to modernize the bureau so that once and for all we can rid of systemic issues that remain because of outdated policies,” he said.

2 alleged victims of online illegal recruitment intercepted at Clark airport — BI

Robie de Guzman   •   March 22, 2021

Immigration officers at the Clark International Airport intercepted two females who were allegedly victims of online illegal recruitment bound for the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said.

In a report to Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente, the BI Travel Control Enforcement Unit (TCEU) said the two women were stopped on Thursday, March 18 when they attempted to board their flight to Dubai.

The report said the two passengers presented themselves as overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) with valid overseas employment certificates (OEC) and employment contracts.

But primary inspection officers noted discrepancies in the documents and referred them to the TCEU for inspection.

The documents were then presented to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Labor Assistance Center officer on duty at the airport terminal for verification.

“Through the checks, it was confirmed by the POEA officer on-duty that the contract the victims submitted were not verified by the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Dubai, and were faked,” Morente said in a statement on Sunday.

Later, the victims admitted that they received their employment contract from an agent they met online a day before their flight.

“They were instructed by this fixer to delete all conversations from their phones pertaining to their travel,” Morente said.

“It was obviously a ploy to depart through illegal means,” he added.

Morente said similar schemes are suspected to be used by illegal recruiters to deploy Filipinos to other countries.

He added that fake contracts are presented to make it seem like they are being deployed to UAE when in fact they are illegally sent to a different country.

“Illegal agencies falsify existing documents of legitimate OFWs. This modus operandi is a reemerging one, wherein the fixer falsifies employment contracts in the UAE, attaches it to an approved OEC, and submits it for primary inspection,” he said.

“We are able to intercept attempts when we see discrepancies in their records,” he added.

Deaths of foreigners staying in PH should be reported to immigration bureau, Morente says

Robie de Guzman   •   March 4, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Thursday urged relatives and acquaintances of foreign nationals who have died while residing in the Philippines to report their deaths to the bureau to update their records and cancel their alien registration.

In a statement, Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said that under the 1950 Alien Registration Act, the parents or relatives, or persons in charge of the burial of a deceased foreigner are required to surrender the latter’s alien certificate of registration identity card (ACR I-Card) to the bureau.

The term “person in charge” refers also to owners and/or operators of funeral parlors, cryo-regeneration facilities, cemeteries, crypts and crematoria, the BI said.

Morente added that the deceased alien’s ACR I-Cards should be surrendered to the BI’s registration officers at the Bureau’s Alien Registration Division (ARD) for cancellation and deactivation.

The BI said that since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, it has not received any report of deaths of foreign nationals in the country.

Records also show that as of January 2021, only 1,222 ACR I-Cards were cancelled by reason of deaths of aliens.

The bureau stressed that reporting of deceased aliens to the BI is vital in properly monitoring the presence of foreign nationals in the country, and help the government formulate policies and actions in determining potential threats to public safety and public health amidst the pandemic.

“Our Bureau is mandated by law to monitor the arrival, presence, activities, departure, re-entry and even death of aliens, whether they are staying in the country legally or illegally,” BI alien registration chief Atty. Jose Carlitos Licas said.

Licas added that reporting of aliens’ deaths will enable the BI to inform the concerned embassies of their deceased nationals.

BI to implement changes in travel restrictions asap

Maris Federez   •   November 23, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Saturday (Nov. 21) announced that they will be carrying out changes in the country’s travel restrictions effective immediately. 

In a statement released to the media, BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said that with the latest resolution of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID), the bureau has carried out the expanded coverage of foreign nationals that are allowed to enter the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Effective immediately, treaty traders and treaty investors, or those issued visas pursuant to Section 9(d) of the Philippine Immigration Act of 1940 are allowed to enter the country,” said Morente.

Section 9(d) visa holders are those alien businessmen who are in the country to carry on trade of commerce between the Philippines and the country to which he is a national of, or invest in an enterprise in the country, the statement said.

Also entitled to the same visa are the alien’s spouse and minor children, as well as the alien’s employees, it further said.

It added that other foreigners allowed to enter the country are those with visas issued by the Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan, Cagayan Economic Zone Authority, and Clark Development Corporation. —/mbmf

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