DOJ: 'Unfair' for BI to reimburse travelers offloaded due to long immigration assessment

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 21) — The Department of Justice (DOJ) said it may be "unfair" for the Bureau of Immigration to shoulder all the reimbursements for travel expenses and damages caused to offloaded travelers after a delay due to prolonged immigration assessments.

Committee of Appropriations Vice Chair Rep. Peter Gonzaga, on behalf of the DOJ, said BI officers responsible for the offloading of cleared travelers will answer for their mistakes through penalties which could also include civil indemnity and damages.

"With regard to the Bureau of Immigration to absorb the liability, I don't think that it's fair," Gonzaga said Thursday during the House plenary session on the DOJ's proposed budget for 2024.

"Based po sa memorandum circular, ay hindi ka naman aabot ng 10 minuto kung kailangan kang tatanungin sa mga papeles na dala dala mo," he added.

[Translation: Based on the memorandum circular, it won't take you more than 10 minutes if you have to be asked about the papers you brought]

He made the statement after OFW Partylist Rep. Marissa Magsino asked if the BI is willing to shoulder reimbursements for "unwarranted and unnecessary, if not malicious, offloading." Magsino pointed out that 32,404 travelers missed their flights in 2022 because they were held up for questioning.

"These unfortunate incidents have been damaging to OFWs who are to leave the country for the first time and have yet to earn yet still their expenses continue to mount as a result," Magsino said.

She proposed that reimbursements be charged to collected immigration fees, which the department contested.

In June, immigration officers were slapped with complaints before the Office of the Ombudsman for inappropriate behavior in implementing departure protocols for Filipinos leaving the country. 

Posts about several travelers' complaints have been circulating online, as immigration officers strictly implement protocols aimed at profiling possible victims of human trafficking.

Some of the complaints were about alleged extortion by one of its employees, and lengthy interviews, resulting in passengers missing their flights.

The Bureau previously explained that a second interview is needed for some passengers if there is reason to suspect the traveler could be a victim of human trafficking. 

Magsino reminds the bureau and its members to "exercise their authority with due diligence and care," noting that their actions could ultimately hurt the OFWs and travelers.