MANILA (UPDATED)- The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday said immigration procedures are undergoing revisions following complaints from inconvenienced passengers against some Bureau of Immigration (BI) officers' alleged "abusive behavior."
The DOJ however stressed the importance of the fight against human trafficking led by the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT).
“At present, IACAT is in the process of revising the Departure Formalities to better reflect current trends and plug the gaps that arose along the way. Moreover, we are in coordination with BI and other stakeholders to minimize the inconvenience caused by the Departure Formalities to Filipino travelers,” the justice department said in a press release.
The DOJ said traffickers have become more creative with their schemes, such as the recruitment of well-traveled Filipinos who display the financial capacity to travel and work for regional call centers engaged in fraudulent activities.
“The underlying problem here lies in the fact that for these new schemes, it is extremely difficult to distinguish regular passengers from potential victims of human trafficking,” the DOJ said.
The DOJ noted that due to the strict implementation of departure formalities, the BI deferred the departure of 6,788 out of 1,056,247 Filipinos who exited the country from January to February 2023 alone.
As it asked for the public’s patience, the DOJ added that the BI is investigating the alleged excessive or inappropriate behavior of some immigration officers.
“Rest assured, the abusive behavior which goes beyond the mandate of the officers will not be tolerated and will be appropriately and strictly dealt with,” the DOJ said.
BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo that immigration personnel are not allowed to inspect social media accounts and online bank accounts of passengers.
Private documents cannot be demanded by BI staff. Personal belongings such as diploma and yearbooks do not hold value in a traveler's background, she said.
"Puwedeng itanong sa immigration officer ang purpose ng mga tanong ... ang officers obligadong sumagot," she said.
According to Sandoval, the BI officer who told a traveler to show a yearbook has been sent a show-cause order to explain such an unusual demand.
Several Filipino passengers in the past few weeks have complained over social media about missing their flight or being offloaded due to some immigration officers' excessive questioning.