BI examiners nearly deport Chinese diplomat

By Rainier Allan Ronda, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jan 20 2014 10:30 AM | Updated as of Jan 20 2014 06:30 PM

MANILA - Newly hired Bureau of Immigration (BI) examiners at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) were reported to have nearly deported a Chinese diplomat who was sent to help victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda last Jan. 6.

Insiders confirmed that Zheng Wanming, a technician bound for the Eastern Visayas to help in the post-Yolanda relief efforts, was pulled from the line at the airport immigration counter at past 5 a.m. and made the subject of an exclusion order by immigration officer Lady Joan Ruiz and supervisor Lynn Austria – allegedly without checking his visa, which would have shown that he was a diplomat.

Zheng, a 9E visa holder and a foreign government official, was included in the order because he reportedly had no return ticket. However, under immigration rules, foreign diplomats are allowed to enter the country without a return ticket.

Zheng, who did not speak English, was detained at the airport for about 15 hours. A representative from the Chinese embassy allegedly went to the NAIA at around noon to explain Zheng’s status and plead for his release.

The immigration officers refused to release Zheng, saying an exclusion order had been drawn up. A person subjected to an exclusion order would be deported immediately on the next available flight back to his country of origin.

Only after the Chinese embassy sought the help of the Philippine Red Cross that the exclusion order on Zheng was lifted by the BI and he was allowed to enter the country at around 8 p.m.

Airport sources said the incident occurred because of Ruiz and Austria’s ignorance. They questioned the assignment of newly hired immigration officers to sensitive, frontline positions at the airport.