Senator Chiz Escudero wants the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to reimburse the travel expenses of the more than 32,000 passengers who were offloaded from their flights due to prolonged interrogation by immigration officers “in the guise of fighting human trafficking.”
In a manifestation supporting the privilege speech of Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri this afternoon denouncing the new departure rules issued by the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), Escudero said immigration officers should be held accountable for the woes of these offloaded travelers.
The new policy, which is set to take effect on September 3, has been heavily criticized by the public in various social media platforms, especially the additional paper requirements that make international travels tedious and complicated.
“Hinahayaan dapat silang magbiyahe at hayaan nating ‘yung bansang kanilang pupuntahan ang tumingin at magtanong: meron ka bang pambayad sa hotel? May insurance ka ba? Dahil bago sila inisyuhan ng visa, Mr. President, tiningnan at hiningi na lahat ‘yan ng mga embassies. Bakit kailangan pa ipresenta muli sa ating mga immigration officers sa airports?” Escudero asked.
To teach the BI a lesson, Escudero said they should pay for the troubles they caused Filipinos wanting to travel.
“May I seek the chamber’s support that we include a provision in the proposed 2024 national budget that these 32,404 passengers and anyone who will be offloaded will be reimbursed in so far as their expenses is concerned,” Escudero said.
“This will be chargeable against the immigration fees being collected by the BI since a percentage of this goes to them anyway. Let it hurt them, Mr. President, so that they learn their lessons and they exercise the power given to them not arbitrarily but with due diligence and care,” he added.
According to BI records, a total of 32,404 Filipino passengers were not allowed to proceed with their flights last year, of which 472 were found to be victims of human trafficking or illegal recruitment.
The Bicolano senator, however said, that up to this time, “there is no proof and final decision that says that indeed those offloaded will be engaged in prostitution or human trafficking.”
“Therefore, it just behooves government to reimburse these 32, 404 retroactively, even for previous years, chargeable from the fees collected by the Immigration and I hope that you, Mr. President, can lead us insofar as inserting that special provision in the budget of the BI for 2024,” he pointed out.
Senate President Zubiri thanked Escudero for his manifestation and assured the veteran legislator that he will ensure that a special provision on the matter will be carved during the budget deliberation for next year’s budget.