Only 0.06% of total departing passengers on an everyday basis get offloaded from their flights due to being victims of human trafficking, illegal recruitment, or inconsistencies in their travel documents, the Bureau of Immigration said Monday.
BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval made the response after a traveler missed her flight because she was unable to show her yearbook as proof of being a college graduate, an instance that has since prompted the public to share varying stories of their unpleasant experiences with immigration officers.
Sandoval said immigration personnel were constantly trained and reminded to be formal and professional in performing their duties as law enforcers, and that secondary inspections were limited to victims of crimes such as human trafficking, which is a common incident in the country, and those whose documents presented were inconsistent with the purpose of travel.
“If you are a tourist who is not hiding anything, you do not have to worry about anything," Sandoval said during the public briefing. "There is a misconception that all departing passengers undergo secondary inspection. Hindi po ganun; 06% lang po ng total departing passengers ang nao-offload, at ito po iyong mga tinatarget na biktima ng human trafficking as well as iyong mga umaalis na ang mga dokumento ay hindi tugma ang actual purpose of travel."
“Dahil ito pong nakikitang incidents of human trafficking, we see it on a daily basis. It is not an isolated incident. We see it everyday and it is alarming that people fall into these call center scams only to end up being physically hurt or sexually abused,” Sandoval added.
Nevertheless, Sandoval said that the Immigration Bureau was working double time to ensure that its personnel performed their jobs in accordance with the guidelines on departure formalities, especially on communicating with travelers.
“Just last Friday, we finished our training focusing on case handling and proper communication with passengers so they (BI personnel) can properly explain the situation to the people involved, and what are the next steps to take. We see this as a very important aspect in properly handling the concerns [raised],” Sandoval said.
“We want to ensure that our officers conduct their duties and responsibilities professionally. As law enforcers, hindi naman laging naka bungisngis at welcoming with open arms. But at the same time, hindi dapat magsungit. We remind them that they have to conduct their jobs in a formal and professional manner.”
(Law enforces cannot be giddy and welcoming all the time. But at the same time, they should not be hostile.)
Sandoval said that the BI was open to hearing complaints against its personnel and would swiftly conduct investigations and impose appropriate sanctions if the probe shows an immigration officer is at fault.
As an example, Sandoval pointed to the seafarer who accused an immigration officer of asking for P150,000 in exchange for a guarantee that the seafarer would not be offloaded from his flight.
A formal complaint on the matter had been filed, and the BI was looking into the case.
“We work with the limitations of the law in the case of erring immigration officers. If we find them at fault, we elevate it to the Department of Justice. And if the immigration officer is liable, the DOJ will impose sanctions,” Sandoval said.
“Our swift action on these cases will be the deterrent against these illicit activities, and that is why our goal is to really remove personnel who tarnish the image of the agency and are not being of help to the government.” — DVM, GMA Integrated News