DOJ suspends implementation of revised guidelines for outbound Filipino travelers

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 31) — The government has temporarily halted the implementation of the controversial revised guidelines for Filipinos traveling overseas, which were supposed to take effect in early September, following calls from lawmakers.

The Department of Justice (DOJ), through the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), announced on Thursday the suspension of the implementation of the updated rules on departure formalities.

In a statement, the DOJ said Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla found it necessary to "thoroughly clarify the issues surrounding the revised guidelines to both the senators and the public" in light of recent concerns that they are an added burden to Filipino travelers.

READ: What you need to know about the new requirements for Filipinos traveling overseas

The decision came a day after the Senate approved an unnumbered resolution calling for the suspension.

In the same session, senators approved a separate resolution allowing the Senate president to file a petition before the Supreme Court, seeking a temporary restraining order against the amended rules, if deemed necessary.

The DOJ, however, reiterated its explanation that the revised guidelines were “not intended to burden the general public” but to streamline departure procedures, “ensuring a more efficient and secure process for all individuals traveling abroad.”

It added that it is committed to upholding the rights of all individuals, including the right to travel freely.

“We assure the public that the revised guidelines aim to strike a balance between national security and the facilitation of smooth and efficient travel,” the DOJ wrote.


A number of senators, including Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, welcomed the justice department’s move after they expressed concern that the revised guidelines may be unconstitutional.

“Lahat ng ating senador na abogado [All our senators who are lawyers]…said that it is a curtailment of a constitutional right,” Zubiri told CNN Philippines’ The Source, an hour before the DOJ announced the suspension.

He said the rules are “burdensome, costly,” and may lead to corruption and discrimination.

“Titingnan nila naka-tsinelas ka ba, hindi ka magaling mag-English. Sabihin mo hindi masyadong magaling mag-English, aba, kaagad-agad for secondary screening na ‘yan,” Zubiri said.

[Translation: They’ll check if you’re wearing slippers, you’re not good at English. For instance, if you do not speak fluently in English, you might automatically be subjected to a secondary screening.]

Earlier, former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay likewise questioned the IACAT rules, calling it "an unconstitutional sleight of hand: from right to travel to permission to leave." 

Hilbay said these may be used to harass migrant workers and critics of the government. He added these may result not only in longer lines at airports but also corruption.

In her statement, Senator Grace Poe said the DOJ’s decision averts “what could have been a chaotic situation” at airports, with passengers potentially missing their flights due to “cumbersome requirements.”

Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva also thanked IACAT for heeding their call, adding that the chamber looks forward to working with Remulla and the council to find “better solutions” to combat human trafficking.

“Our position remains. The revised IACAT travel guidelines are unreasonable, prone to abuse, and misplaced,” Villanueva said. “The government should not put the burden on our kababayans [fellow Filipinos] but instead strengthen their programs against trafficking."