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BI agent asked for P150K for 'escort service' at NAIA, says passenger

A Bureau of Immigration (BI) agent asked a seafarer at least P150,000 in exchange for an escort service to help him board his plane, according to Chino Gaston’s report on "24 Oras" Thursday.

Seafarer JC Manganti was supposed to go on a vacation in Paris, France last August 7, 2022. However, he was offloaded or not permitted to board the plane by the BI at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

This, despite the fact that he had a valid Schengen visa and documents such as an affidavit of support from his cousin in France and the Philippine Embassy.

When he went to the BI main office, the agency said he has complete documents and may proceed with his flight.  But upon reaching the airport, he was still prevented from boarding.

At least three plane tickets to Paris costing around P200,000 were wasted due to his offloading.

On his third try, an immigration agent at the main office offered a solution to his problem.

“Nag-aalok po ng P150,000 for escort, palalagpasin lang daw po ako roon. Pagpasok ko po sa airport mayroon pong sasama sa akin doon ituturo po sa akin kung kaninong immigration line na pupunta, kung kanino pong booth mabubura po yung offloaded sa system nila hindi na raw po makikita yung offloaded system. May mga Chinese rin daw po silang pinapalabas almost P200,000 yung mga binabayad ng Chinese,” Manganti said.

(I was offered to be escorted for P150,000. I was told they will let me pass.  Upon entering the airport, someone will meet me and direct me to an immigration booth. They said my record of being offloaded will be erased from the system.  They said they also facilitate the exit of some Chinese nationals who pay almost P200,000.)

Manganti also showed the screenshot of text messages with the two employees of BI who promised to erase his name on the offloaded list.

He also showed another screenshot of a text message where he begged the BI agent to postpone the supposedly P150,000 payment of escorting him to the airport entrance.

The BI said strict monitoring is being implemented against potential victims of human trafficking especially in the Southeast Asian, Middle East, and Europe countries.

Based on the data of the Interagency Council Against Trafficking (ICAT), at least 6,788 Filipinos were offloaded this year due to human trafficking syndicates.

The BI also said it is illegal for any immigration employee to ask for money in exchange for escorting a traveler to pass the immigration counters.

“This is highly illegal, this is something that we are really pursuing at we want to gusto natin maeliminate natin yung mga ganitong kalokohan among our ranks,” BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval said.

The BI said it will help Manganti to pursue those who attempted to extort money from him.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice (DOJ) asked for the public's understanding on the strict enforcement of departure formalities.

“We sincerely request for the public’s continued patience, understanding, cooperation, and support. As we emphasize the disruptive effect these may have caused to the public, let us not overlook the fact that there is a bigger problem we need to address as a country: human trafficking,” the DOJ said.

“At present, IACAT is in the process of revising the departure formalities to better reflect current trends and plug the gaps that arose along the way. Moreover, we are in coordination with BI and other stakeholders to minimize the inconvenience caused by the departure formalities to Filipino travelers,” it added.—Richa Noriega/LDF, GMA Integrated News