Bandar Seri Begawan - The Philippine Ambassador to Brunei, Nestor Z Ochoa, said yesterday that the Philippine Embassy will have a policy dialogue today with two Philippine Department of Justice agencies on the Country's anti-trafficking and immigration policies.
Resource speakers from Manila yesterday discussed and clarified measures undertaken by the Philippine government on human trafficking and smuggling and immigration guidelines, which led to complaints on the offloading Brunei-bound passengers since 2010.
Yesterday's forum was one of the projects of the First Meeting of the Council of Philippine Embassies and Missions in Asean Countries (COPEMAC) in Bangkok last April 19 to 20, said Ambassador Ochoa.
It was held at the Philippine Embassy Chancery.
"There is only one human trafficking case reported in Brunei, according to the Philippine Embassy, which was corroborated by Royal Brunei Police Force (RBPF) officers, who attended the forum yesterday.
"Human trafficking cases from Malaysia, reported in Brunei, dropped from 20 last year to four this year In previous years, there were 20 to 30 cases handled by the embassy," said Consul General Raymond Balatbat.
"Brunei is a transit point, but there are no reported cases," said Ms Ruby Turiano-Ramones, Executive Officer for Strategic Management and Special Operations of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (AIACAT).
"She is responsible for the setting up of Arrival Procedures for Repatriated Filipinos, especially Overseas Filipino Workers.
"The Philippine government spent the equivalent of three years' salary for every Filipino worker mandatorily repatriated from Syria. Of 10,000 Filipinos estimated in Syria, 2,114 were repatriated by August 2011."
Ninety out of 10 were irregular or undocumented workers. Eight out of 10 were human trafficking victims. Four out of five had no departure records (escorted at the airport ramp). One out of five had assumed identities. One out of three had counterfeit departure border stamps, revealed Mrs Ramones.
Ramones and the other resource speakers, lawyers Grace Gaudelyn B Lara, the Head Executive Assistant, and Patricia Lauren D Zuniga, Executive Assistant, Office of the Commissioner, the Bureau of Immigration, said:
"The guidelines issued by the Department of Justice for Filipino travellers departing for abroad gives limited discretion of Immigration Officers thus minimising corruption. There is a set of standard checklist of documents, and not according to the discretion of the Immigration Officer, to prevent corruption in the agency.
"In 2010, 62,000 travellers were offloaded because of the campaign against human trafficking and smuggling.
"Because of the campaign and Filipinos following procedures, the January to August 2012 offloading figure was lowered to 24,205. Improperly documented travellers accounted for 66 per .cent (six out of 10) of offloaded passengers this year.
"Forty-one Immigration personnel have been dismissed, including 18 personnel assigned at the Diosdado Macapagal International airport in Clark, Pampanga, for corruption, facilitating, escorting and assisting travellers without visas. For the first time in the immigration department's history, five have been dropped from the roll.
"The constitutional right to travel has statutory limitations. It is not an absolute right, but subject, to regulations, according to the Supreme Court (Human Security Act, Philippine Passport Act, Anti-Trafficking. Act, Migrant Workers/Overseas Workers Act, Violence Against Women and Children, Inter-Country Adoption Act).
"Airport terminal fees and travel taxes of offloaded passengers can be refunded from the offices where they paid the fees on the same day they are denied passage.
"Refunds of air tickets are upon the discretion of the issuing airline, based on rebooking fees, no show fees. Buy refundable tickets, not budget tickets which cannot be refunded. Do not buy open tickets for one or two years, which can be grounds for offloading.
"The Bureau of Immigration needs 500 officers immediately. Two thousand officers are needed to professionalise the service.
All immigration booths will be equipped with close-circuit cameras and devices to record conversations during the renovation of airport facilities. From July 2010 to August 31, 2012, 97 human traffickers have been convicted in court, compared to 29 convictions before.
"Complaints, detailing the names of officers, passengers and circumstances, can be addressed by post, to the Complaint Redress Section, Office of the Commissioner, Bureau of Immigration in Manila. At the airport, ask for the Immigration Supervisor or Terminal in Charge, if in doubt of legalities. Assert your rights."--Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin