Amid corruption issues, such as the ‘pastillas’ scheme involving immigration officers, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go is pushing for the passage of a proposed measure he filed that would strengthen the Bureau of Immigration, address systemic issues and legal loopholes, and update the country’s outdated immigration laws.
“Matagal ko nang ipinaglalaban na i-modernize ang mga proseso sa gobyerno upang mas mapabilis ang serbisyo sa tao at matanggal ang korapsyon sa sistema. Isa na dito ang Bureau of Immigration na nababalot ng anomalya ngayon,” he explained.
The senator earlier filed Senate Bill No. 1649 or the Bureau of Immigration Modernization Act of 2020. The measure, if passed, will update and strengthen the laws, rules and regulations governing the admission, entry, stay and departure of persons in the Philippines.
The measure will also give the immigration commissioner more control and supervision over the bureau’s officers and personnel, including the authority to appoint, promote and reassign.
Moreover, any individual found in violation of SBN 1649’s provisions and convicted under Republic Act No. 3019, also known the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, or other laws against corruption and bribery, shall suffer the maximum penalty.
As to improving the bureau’s capabilities to fulfill its mandate and protect the country from threats, the bill will provide improved guidelines to closely monitor foreigners coming inside the country, including those who are entering the Philippines either for tourism or long-term stay. It will do so by establishing a modernized system of documentation and prescribe better procedures and requirements for admission of immigrants and non-immigrants.
“Isinusulong natin sa Senado na amyendahan ang lumang batas upang mas mapabuti ang serbisyo sa immigration, mas maaalagaan ang mga Pilipino, at mas maprotektahan ang bansa sa iba’t ibang panganib na pwedeng dumating,” Go previously explained.
Recently, the National Bureau of Investigation filed complaints against 86 immigration officials for violating the anti-graft law by engaging in a scheme to extort bribes from foreign nationals, mostly Chinese nationals, in exchange for their entry into the country.
Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente faulted the systemic issues within the agency for encouraging the proliferation of corrupt schemes. He also identified legal loopholes in the outdated provisions of the Commonwealth Act 613, otherwise known as The Philippine Immigration Act of 1940, for hindering the leadership’s ability to combat and eradicate corruption within the agency.
Under the law, the bureau’s chief has no authority to hire or dismiss, and thus cannot exercise disciplinary authority over erring officials. The power lies instead with the Secretary of Justice, whose department the agency is attached to.
During the past month, Senator Go had issued various calls for the new expanded task force created by the President to investigate the BI and put an end to systemic corruption such as the ‘pastillas’ scheme. He recognized, however, the need to amend the country’s outdated immigration laws in order to modernize government processes, address issues plaguing the bureau, and enhance its services amid the changing times.
“First line of defense natin ang Bureau of Immigration. Patuloy na nagbabago ang anyo at diskarte ng mga dayuhang may masamang balak na manamantala sa ating mga mamamayan. Dapat unahan ng gobyerno ang mga pagbabagong ito upang mas maprotektahan ang Pilipino laban sa terorismo at iba pang krimen na dinadala sa ating bansa,” said the senator.