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Friday, December 8, 2023

Solon questions BI on offloading of OFWs

Rep. Marissa Magsino of the OFW party-list group on Thursday called the attention of the Bureau of Immigration on the “unjustified” offloading of Filipino travelers, particularly overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

During the plenary deliberations for the proposed budget of the Department of Justice (DOJ) for 2024, Magsino cited that in 2022, 32,404 Filipino passengers were reportedly off-loaded, with only 472 confirmed as victims of human trafficking or illegal recruitment.

“This discrepancy has led some sectors to question the effectiveness of the departure screening guidelines and propose that travel expenses and damages incurred due to unwarranted off-loading should be reimbursed,” Magsino said.

The female legislator also took note of a proposal to have these expenses and damages charged to the immigration fees being collected by the Bureau under the Special Provision in the General Appropriations Act as per Memorandum Order  024, Section 1.8—intended for the salary augmentation of the Bureau personnel, which has a balance of P 232.84 million as of December 31, 2022.

“The reason behind the proposal is to remind immigration officers to exercise their authority with due diligence, and not arbitrarily, for it will also hurt them ultimately.   I thus urge the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to make a solemn commitment to fairly and carefully use its authority, particularly in the case of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), otherwise we will actively pursue the realization of the proposal in collaboration with our counterparts in the Senate,” Magsino stated.

In September 2023, the DOJ and the Inter Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) suspended the implementation of the Revised IACAT Guidelines on Departure Formalities for International-bound Filipino Passengers  due to concerns that they might infringe upon the constitutional right of Filipinos to travel. This suspension was undertaken with the intention of revisiting the guidelines, reinforcing the information and education campaign to clarify their purpose, and addressing the legitimate concerns raised by the public.

“I firmly believe that the ongoing review of the revised guidelines should prioritize the enhancement of information dissemination and education. Although while these aspects are undeniably crucial, I also find it essential to raise a fundamental question: Why does the current review seem to overlook the delicate balance between individual constitutional rights and national security concerns?

“It is my sincere suggestion that this vital aspect be given due consideration during the revision process to ensure a fair and just outcome for all,” Magsino stressed.

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