Senator Christopher “Bong” Go has strongly condemned a recent incident involving an officer from the Bureau of Immigration (BI) allegedly extorting money from an overseas Filipino worker.
Go, who has been known for his strong stance against corruption and in fighting for the welfare of OFWs, called for swift action to be taken against the erring officer.
“While we recognize the hard work and dedication of many of our government employees, we cannot tolerate those who abuse their power and betray the trust of our kababayans. Swift action must be taken to hold the erring officer accountable and to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future. Managot ang dapat managot. Huwag natin hayaan ang mga nang-aabuso,” Go said.
The OFW, JC Manganti, was not permitted to board a flight to France despite having complete documents. He reported the incident to Immigration Commissioner Norman Tansingco and presented text messages from the BI officer asking for P150,000 in exchange for an escort service.
The BI confirmed the incident and stated that Manganti should have been allowed to board on his second try.
This incident is not the first time that airport personnel have been involved in such illegal activities. The infamous “laglag bala” or bullet-planting scheme, which victimized many innocent passengers, was a prevalent issue in the past before then President Rodrigo Duterte put a stop to this during the start of his term.
The “pastillas” scheme, which involves airport personnel facilitating the entry of foreign nationals illegally into the country, was also a major concern that was addressed during the administration of former president Duterte.
“Hindi dapat tayo papayag na ang ating mga kababayan ay magdusa dahil sa iilang tiwaling empleyado ng gobyerno na nang bibiktima sa kanila sa pamamagitan ng mga modus na ito. Panahon na upang masiguro na magiging ligtas at maayos ang paglalakbay ng bawat Pilipino sa kahit anong airport sa bansa,” he said.
At the height of these schemes, Duterte said he has zero tolerance for corruption in airports.
“Walang maglaglag ng bala, walang mag-akyat ng droga, walang mag-traffick ng tao, walang magnanakaw sa airport. Dito sa airport, zero tolerance ako,” said before by the former president.
Meanwhile, Go emphasized the need for stricter measures and intensified efforts to curb these illegal activities. He cited the recently passed Salary Standardization Law 5, which aims to increase the salary of government employees, including those in the BI, as a means to promote better service delivery and prevent the occurrence of corrupt practices.
“Huwag pahintulutan ang mga manloloko na muling makabalik. Kahit na tinaasan na ang sahod ng mga manggagawa sa ilalim ng SSL5, mayroon pa ring mga taong sakim. Galit kami ni dating pangulong Duterte sa mga taong nang-aapi at nangloloko sa iba, lalo na sa mga biyahero na nangangailangan ng malasakit,” he said.
In order to improve the immigration services of the country and make them more responsive to new and increasing challenges, Go also refiled Senate Bill 1185 or the Bureau of Immigration Modernization Bill.
“Isinusulong natin sa Senado na amyendahan ang lumang batas upang mas mapabuti ang serbisyo sa immigration, mas maaalagaan ang mga Pilipino, at mas maprotektahan ang bansa sa iba’t ibang panganib na pwedeng dumating,” Go said.
“Noong taong 1940 pa ito naisabatas. Halos 80 years ago na po. Marami na pong nangyari at pwede pang mangyari sa hinaharap kung kaya’t karapat dapat rin lang na gawing akma ang batas sa kasalukuyang panahon at gawing moderno ang ating immigration services,” he added.
The Senator is referring to Commonwealth Act 613, otherwise known as “The Philippine Immigration Act of 1940,” which provided the mandate of BI, admitting that it is “an outdated law passed during the American regime.” While amendments have been introduced over time, Go said, “the immigration system needs to be updated to reflect present challenges which confront immigration in our country.”
Go explained that the BI is principally responsible for the implementation of all laws, rules and regulations concerning entry, admission, stay and departure from the Philippines of all persons. Given the new and emerging forms of threats to Filipinos, such as child sexual abuse and cross-border terrorism, the law must now be improved to better deal with these.
An upgrade of their salary grades is indicated in the bill to provide proper compensation commensurate to their profession considering the changing times.
“Sa pamamagitan ng panukalang ito, mas mapapabuti rin natin ang compensation scheme ng mga nagtatrabaho sa ahensya. Mas maiiwasan ang katiwalian, mas mabibigyan sila ng kapasidad na pagbutihin pa ang kanila trabaho,” Go explained.
Go has also been a firm advocate for the welfare of OFWs. The senator was one of the authors and co-sponsors of the Senate version of Republic Act No. 11641 which created the Department of Migrant Workers.
It is the consolidated version of an earlier measure he filed which sought to create the Department of Overseas Filipino Workers, ensuring the efficient and effective delivery of key government services.
Go believes the establishment of the DMW is a significant step in addressing the challenges faced by OFWs and ensuring their welfare and protection.