Numerous projects aiming to fast-track the modernization of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) and done within his first 100 days in office capped the agency’s accomplishments under the rein of BI Commissioner Norman Tansingco.
Tansingco said he spent his first day as BI chief inspecting the BI Main office, and proceeded on his second day to conduct an inspection of the BI operations at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
Tansingco then reminded frontline officers that he will not tolerate any corrupt activities amongst the agency’s ranks. “Ayoko ng pastillas. Ayokong umabot sa ako pa mismo ang magpoposas sa empleyadong mahuling gumagawa ng kalokohan,” he earlier warned.
Tansingco also initiated the tightening of screening of foreigners from Cambodia and Vietnam in September, following reports from local law enforcement agencies on the uptick of kidnappings and extortion activities from syndicates hailing from said countries.
The removal of sex offenders in the country also remained a priority for the bureau. One of the biggest arrests was John Crotty, a 64-year-old UK national who was tagged as undesirable after having been previously convicted of sex-related crimes.
BI agents in its warden facility also blocked attempts to smuggle methamphetamine inside the detention center in September and October, which led to the filing of criminal charges against the aliens involved.
Aliens committing fraud were likewise sought for arrest and deportation. In September, South Korean Lee Won Ho was arrested by BI agents for being tagged as a kingpin in a telecom scam syndicate victimizing his compatriots. On the same month, Fu Qihao was arrested for being wanted in China due to his involvement in a pyramid scam. In October, the BI arrested a Ghanian scammer posing as a missionary in the Philippines, after reports of his involvement in ATM hackings in the metro.
The BI likewise strengthened its partnership with other government agencies, including the Bureau of Customs and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, which led the interagency to the interception of American Stephen Jozeph Szuhar in September, who attempted to smuggle in 19 million worth of cocaine to the country.
Coordination with the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police also led to the arrest of 372 illegal aliens found to be involved in clandestine online gaming operations. On the other hand, coordination with the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation led to the cancellation of visas of 48,782 foreign nationals, 1,424 of which have already been ordered to leave.
The agency also partnered with the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Council in the establishment of cybercrime hubs at the BI Main office and major international airports.
Partnership with the Department of Information and Communications Technology, the Department of Tourism, the Bureau of Quarantine, the BOC, the Department of Health, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Justice led to the launch of the eTravel website, removing the arrival card requirement and consolidating data requirement of border agencies into one platform.
Together with the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), the BI also rolled out its updated system linked with the DMW’s database, to access overseas Filipino workers’ overseas employment certificate records in real time, lessening paper-based requirements.
Other international airports have also strengthened their border measures. In October, immigration officers at the Clark International Airport arrested two Indians with fake immigration stamps, and a Taiwanese wanted in his country for drug-related crimes.
The BI has also pushed for improvements to provide better service to the public. It has transferred the 2023 annual report to the Robinson’s Place Manila and the SM Mall of Asia, and has opened its offices nationwide to provide convenience to the public.
It has also established the NAIA 24/7 one-stop-shop that caters to foreign passengers needing urgent immigration documents.
The BI has continuously fought trafficking, rescuing victims recruited to illegally work in Thailand, Laos, and Dubai. In November, BI airport officers uncovered trafficking attempts involving fake airport passes and use of airport employees’ entrances. Tansingco ordered the investigation of said attempts, and called on other government agencies under the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking to strengthen the joint fight against illegal recruitment and human trafficking.
Tansingco highlighted the key focus areas of his administration, namely anti-corruption, modernization, national security, rightsizing, and personnel empowerment.
“Upon my assumption, the marching orders of Secretary Remulla was to focus on anti-corruption and modernization,” said Tansingco. “I also saw a need to strengthen the role of immigration on national security, follow the direction of the president in maximizing the personnel complement of the bureau, and of course improve the welfare of our employees,” he stated.
Tansingco ends 2022 with the soft launching of the online visa waiver project, allowing short term tourists to easily extend their visas online, and the initiation of electronic payments for BI transactions.
“We celebrate a new beginning for the bureau. Despite the many issues and challenges in the past, we look forward to a better future,” said Tansingco. “Anticipate. Innovate. Motivate. These are the agency’s direction in the next years. Anticipate what is needed, innovate to improve our services, and motivate each other to be the best public servants. Aim high BI,” he shared.