Bureau of Immigration (BI) Commissioner Norman Tansingco has reassigned the BI officer who conducted a lengthy immigration interview to a Filipina traveler that missed her flight abroad, but defended that it was part of a normal process to prevent human trafficking.
BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval said the BI officer who interviewed Charmaine Tanteras has been removed from the frontline and reassigned to a backend office.
“While the procedure of asking secondary questions is really part of the immigration officer’s duty, asking such questions that might not really be helpful in knowing the background of the person is cause for concern,” she said.
However, Sandoval claimed that asking for a passenger’s yearbook is not part of the questions asked by Philippine immigration officers.
“The immigration officer who questioned Tanteras denied asking for her yearbook. He denied asking for a yearbook photo but perhaps he was interested in knowing the background of the person who went viral,” she said.
Tanteras missed her flight to Israel last Christmas due to a lengthy immigration interview.
The Filipina traveler said she had already been screened once by an immigration officer when she was asked to do another set of interviews. She said the second interview caused her to miss her flight.
She said the immigration officer eventually cleared her to go but the plane had already left just several minutes after the questionings. She said the immigration officer asked if she had booked her flight on her own and then took her phone to scroll through her emails.
Sandoval said travelers need only present their ticket, passport and supporting documents to the immigration office, saying many Filipinos fall prey to illegal recruiters and there is a need to conduct screening.
She said the immigration bureau is intent on curbing human trafficking following a rise in trafficking cases involved in crypto scams.
Meanwhile, the BI reported a continuing recruitment of Filipinos who are trafficked abroad and recruited by syndicates to work for illegal online gaming operations.
Tansingco said this is evident due to the continued interceptions by immigration officers of Filipinos who attempt to leave abroad after being hired to work overseas for illegal gambling establishments.
“Many of these passengers, disguised as tourists, are usually bound for Thailand while others are destined for Cambodia or Myanmar. These recruitment scams show no sign of stopping,” Tansingco said.
“This explains why our officers at the airport are doubly strict in allowing the departure of Filipino tourists with doubtful travel purpose. We are duty-bound to protect our citizens from being victimized by these trafficking syndicates.”
“We remind aspiring OFWs not to seek employment through illegal means, but through the Department of Migrant Workers to prevent abuse and exploitation,” he added.