A traveler who had to endure a lengthy interview by Bureau of Immigration personnel who asked her to show a yearbook missed her flight to Israel last December.
The story of freelance writer Cham Tanteras went viral on social media after she failed to catch her flight due to a lengthy interview at the immigration counter.
She was also asked by the immigration officer to present a yearbook.
“Hindi naman ako magdadala ng yearbook while traveling, kahit saan pa (I'm not bringing my yearbook while traveling). Sabi niya (The immigration officer said), ‘if you didn't bring your yearbook, do you have your graduation photo with you?,’” Tanteras said in Maki Pulido’s “24 Oras” report on Friday.
She was eventually allowed to travel after undergoing a secondary inspection. However, it was too late for her to board the flight.
“We apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused the Filipina passenger and other Filipino passengers,” the BI said in a statement in response to Tanteras’ case.
The agency also said it conducted an investigation into Tanteras’ case and reassigned the immigration officer who asked for her yearbook.
Another passenger, Rie, had a similar experience last January.
When the immigration officer found out that she had previously worked in Dubai, she was asked a lot of questions about her experience as an overseas Filipino worker (OFW).
She also underwent a secondary inspection.
“Sobrang haba na ng pila, kasi ang marami ng Pilipino na for the second interview. Sabi ko hala ma’am 10 na, 10:30 po yung boarding ko. ‘Ay pasensiya na may pila tayo pang number 7 ka,’” Rie said.
(The line was already very long because there were many Filipinos for the second interview. I said ma'am it's already 10; my boarding is at 10:30. The officer said, “I'm sorry we have a queue, and you are number 7.”)
After an hour and a half in the second interview, Rie was permitted to pass through immigration, but she was no longer able to board the aircraft.
Nonetheless, Rie made the decision to book a new flight in order to continue with her vacation.
Rie has already filed a complaint with the Office of the Ombudsman against two immigration officers for grave abuse of authority, oppression, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.
The BI has yet to release a statement on the case of Rie.
However, the agency defended its thorough process of screening outbound passengers, especially in light of cases of human trafficking and illegal recruitment.
“The landscape now of human trafficking is very different from what it was before. Nare-recruit po ngayon ay yung mga professionals na may magagandang trabaho dito sa Pilipinas (They are recruiting professionals with good jobs in the Philippines), came from good families with good backgrounds and are graduates of big schools,” BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval said.
Based on BI data, a total of 50,509 Filipinos experienced deferred departures in 2022.
Of this number, around 26,000 Filipinos lacked documents, and 392 were possible cases of human trafficking.
The BI said those who wish to travel abroad must present a passport, a visa if applicable, a roundtrip ticket, and supporting documents.
If there are inconsistencies in the passenger's responses and how they were given, a second interview will be conducted.
Going through immigration screening shouldn't necessarily result in travelers missing their flight, according to the BI. — Richa Noriega/VBL, GMA Integrated News