Stricter travel rules to curtail right to travel, violate right to privacy

August 25, 2023 Ryan Ponce Pacpaco 184 views

CAGAYAN de Oro City 2nd District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez on Friday opposed the decision of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) to impose stricter rules on Filipino travelers, including migrant workers, starting September 3.

“The more stringent rules will unduly interfere with the Filipinos’ right to travel,” Rodriguez, a former immigration commissioner, said.

Noting that the additional regulations would require a traveler to show proof of financial capacity like a bank statement and proof of income, the Mindanao lawmaker said such requirement would “violate the departing passenger’s right to privacy.”

“Those are unreasonable rules. They will give Filipino tourists, overseas Filipino workers and other travelers a lot of inconvenience, and they could make them vulnerable to harassment and extortion by corrupt immigration officers and other airport personnel,” he said.

He added that the IACAT is allowing immigration officers to exercise “subjective judgment, whims and discretion” on departing passengers.

“I am afraid that’s where extortion, harassment and corruption will arise,” he stressed.

Rodriguez urged the IACAT to scrap its stricter rules while there is still time to do so.

“I am sure Justice Secretary (Jesus Crispin) Remulla, who is a good lawyer, knows the implications of the additional regulations on the right to travel and the right to privacy,” he said.

Remula chairs the anti-human trafficking council.

Rodriguez said it is unreasonable and unjustifiable for the council to subject all Filipino travelers to stricter rules so the agency could collar traffickers and trafficking victims.

“They are proposing to burn the whole house down to kill or catch a rat,” he said.

He said human traffickers, clever as they are, could even go around the additional regulations by providing their victims with show money.

“In this digital age and with internet banking, it would be very easy for a trafficker to transfer some funds to his or her victim and for the latter to return the money once she/he clears immigration or reachers her/his destination,” he added.

He pointed out that the harsher rules would also surely create long queues at immigration counters.

Under the revised IACAT rules, the required travel documents for tourists now consist of a passport, valid for at leas six months before the date of departure, valid visa, boarding pass, confirmed return or roundtrip ticket, proof of hotel, proof of financial capacity or source of income consistent with the passenger’s declared purpose of travel, and proof of employment and other equivalent evidence.

There are other additional requirements for migrant workers and other Filipinos going abroad on “sponsored travel.”