[Urgent Appeal] Open Letter to urge CHR to effectively act on the issue of “Offloading” and denial of right to travel of Filipinos in Philippine airports
4 July 2011
HON. LORETTA ANN ROSALES
Commission on Human Rights (CHR)
Quezon City, Philippines
Re: Open Letter to urge CHR to effectively act on the issue of “Offloading” and denial of right to travel of Filipinos in Philippine airports
Dear Chairperson Rosales,
As a concerned citizen and a victim of abusive form of questioning by an immigration official, I am requesting your good office to look into the issue of “offloading” of Filipino tourists and passengers who are leaving the country as well as abuse and arrogant conduct of interrogation by immigration officers at the Philippine airports.
According to a press release by the Bureau of Immigration (BI) officials, there have been more than 28,000 Filipino passengers who were not allowed to leave the country as part of their drive to curb human trafficking. The same press said that more than 54,000 suspected victims of human trafficking have been barred from leaving the country since August 2010. A news article from Philippine Star indicated that the BI reported that they have “stopped 32,038 tourists from leaving for January to June.” There are also several stories of bloggers or on-line writers who have illustrated the extent of this problem.
According to the BI, those that have prevented from leaving the country have been referred to the Interagency Council Against Human Trafficking for them to file appropriate charges, however reports said that only two cases have reached our courts. If the people who have been prevented from leaving the country are possible victims of trafficking and other forms of exploitation abroad, how come the government has not provided them with appropriate support including investigation and filing of appropriate charges? Even if they may have been suspected of being a victim of trafficking, there should be a valid ground and evidence to prove they are a victim and that the government can reasonably restrict a Constitutional right to leave one’s own country.
Based on news reports, such measures undertaken by Immigration officials have resulted to profiling of and discrimination of Filipino passengers. According to Bondoc, “singled out are those who look provincial – dark-skinned, flat-nosed, unfashionably dressed, thick accent.” Another news report said that “Filipino tourists who happen ‘to look poor’ are said to be subjected by certain BI-NAIA agents to these demands.” Such acts of profiling and discrimination against the poor are being done in the name of curbing human trafficking.
There have been reports about immigration officers demanding additional documents from departing Filipinos to prove that their travel abroad is legitimate and that they are not potential victims of human trafficking or might end up as drug mules. A BI spokesperson “justified the demand by immigration officers that departing passengers present document such as income tax return, bank accounts and employment certificates.” These documents are being asked without informing Filipinos of appropriate documents. The website of BI indicates the requirements for departing Filipino travellers in general are a valid passport, a tourist visa and a return ticket. Additional requirements are needed for those who will engage in work, emigrants government officials, minors and those having hold departure orders. BI failed to inform properly Filipinos about additional requirements to prove their capacity for and legitimacy of travel. Likewise, the demand to produce additional documents is unfairly and unequally applied to all departing passengers. These are only done to those who may “look poor”.
It is important to note also that the strict screening of departing passengers was made in compliance of an existing National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Memorandum Circular No. RPL-10-004 dated 9 August 2010, which authorizes the Bureau of Immigration to regulate an individual’s right to travel “whenever there is reasonable detection of a trafficking situation.” The said circular empower immigration officials to assess the travellers overall circumstances “including their personal capacity to travel, such as appearance, demeanor, current employment, financial capability…at the times they present themselves for departure formalities.” Such memorandum circular is bothersome as it entirely leaves to the discretion of an immigration official the realization of an individual’s right to travel. On the other hand, “reasonable detection of a trafficked situation” does not equate to actual victimization.
In the light of these issues, as a concerned citizen who has been subjected to undue interrogation by a Filipino immigration officer, I urge your good office to:
Conduct an immediate and independent investigation on the extent of “offloading” or the denial of right to travel and discrimination of Filipino travellers;
Trace, identify and coordinate with victims, Filipino who have been “offloaded” and provide them with appropriate redress measures;
Issue an advisory opinion on restrictions concerning the curtailment of the right to travel;
Train immigration officials on proper handling of departing passenger taking due consideration the respect for individual freedoms and liberties;
Ryan V. Silverio
Mr. Yap Swee Seng
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM ASIA)
Dr. Nymia P. Simbulan
Philippine Human Rights Information Center (PhilRights)
Dr. Aurora Parong
Amnesty International Pilipinas
Mr. Jarius Bondoc
 Bureau of Immigration. “David hails PH’s removal from trafficking watchlist”, 29 June 2011, http://immigration.gov.ph/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=821&Itemid=78
 Bondoc, Jarius. “Readers narrate immigration run-ins”, Philippine Star, 1 July 2011, http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?publicationSubCategoryId=64&articleId=701443
 “Offloaded by immigration”, Philippines Complaints Board, http://www.pinoycomplaints.com/2011/04/offloaded-by-immigration.html; “Philippine immigration’s policies in off loading passengers without explanation still clouded in mystery”, http://outofphilippines.com/philippines-offloading-policy.htm; “Offloaded”, “http://definitelyfilipino.com/blog/2011/05/14/offloaded/”
 Bondoc, Jarius. “Protecting or extorting from Pinoy tourists?”, Philippine Star, 29 June 2011, http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?publicationSubCategoryId=64&articleId=700841
 “Pinoy tourists complain of ‘abusive’ BI examiners at NAIA”, Philippine Star, 27 June 2011, http://www.philstar.com/nation/article.aspx?publicationSubCategoryId=65&articleId=700160
 Santos, R. “Immigration defends tough screening of departing Pinoys.” Philippine Star, 4 July 2011, p. 3.
 Travel Requirements for Filipinos, Bureau of Immigration, http://immigration.gov.ph/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=239&Itemid=37
 Yumul, J. “More Filipinos are getting held up at Manila airport.” Sun Internet Edition, May 2011, http://www.sunweb.com.hk/Story.asp?hdnStoryCode=6749
- [Press Release] Visayan Forum hails PH gains against trafficking in person (hronlineph.wordpress.com)
- [In the news] Group against sex trafficking launched | The Philippine Star News Headlines (hronlineph.wordpress.com)
- [In the news] Marcos victims decry delisting from suit – INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos (hronlineph.wordpress.com)
- [In the news] End killings, media beseech P-Noy – INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos (hronlineph.wordpress.com)
- [From the web] The case of Joan and 12 other women trafficked in Malaysia – www.kanlungan.ngo.ph (hronlineph.wordpress.com)
I applaud this bold action of Mr. Ryan Silverio. Pwede kang pag-initan ng mga taga-BI/NAIA gawa nito pero tama at kahanga-hanga ang inyong ginawa.
Ang role ng pag-verify kung authentic ang passport ay nasa mga BI pero ang role ng pag-verify kung authentic ang visa plus any supporting documents ay sa port of entry ng country to be visited. WALA ng paki-alam diyan ang Bi/NAIA dapat. The fact that a visa has been issued by the other country, na-verify na nila yung authenticity ng supporting documents like employment certificates or sponsorship. Para namang walang tiwala ang ating “matatalino” na BI people o mas-magaling pa siguro sila kaysa sa mga trained consuls ng ibang bansa na may mas-alam sa kanilang sariling document requirements.
At bakit hahanapan pa ng ITR ang mga tourists? Anong kinalaman niyan? Meron ba silang figure kung ano dapat ang net income ng isang tourist para maka-bisita sa isang particular na bansa?Kung meron kayong figure, publish it in fairness to all Filipinos intending to travel as tourists. AT kung gusto nila, e di dapat sa pag-apply pa lang ng passport (which is still not right) nila hanapin at huwag sa paalis na yung tao who will most likely succumb to any means like bribery para lang makaalis. Kawawang mga Filipinos- pag-pe-fiestahan kayo ng mga BI/NAIA people diyan gawa ng pinaiiral na ganitong patakaran sa pag-alis. At bakit hahanapan ng mga bank accounts? Those are very private and very confidential information na hind basta-basta pinapakita sa iba. Sigurado ba kayo na hindi e-divulge ng mga ilang BI people yung kayamanan ng isang tao sa mga kidnappers or similar syndicates? This is very alarming.
I wil not be surprised if in the near future mag-file ng protests ang ibang countries dahil maapektohan ang kanilang air carriers o pati na ang kanilang workforce. Kunting pag-iisip naman po mga taga BI at NAIA. May iba pang paraan para ma-avoid ang traffickings na sinasabi ninyo na hindi hahantong sa corruptions and violations of one’s rights to travel.
Thanks you for your comments.
Policies, guidelines and procedures must not undermine the individual rights of the people.
BI / Government agencies need to be oriented or be educated on the human rights of the people para mas maging sensitive sila and in compliance with respect to HR when doing their duties and functions. Yes right natin na maproteksiyonan pero hindi nila karapatan na tapakan ang ibang karapatan pa natin upang magampanan nila ito.
Government personnel including ang mga tagahubog at tagapagpatupad ng mga policies ay nalululong at nagkukubli sa magagandang objectives while nagmimistulang power tripping lamang specially sa mga mahihirap.
sincerity, political will and consciousness sa obligation nila ang kailangan to protect us from human rights violations and abuses such as human trafficking but let us remind them “hindi nito sila binibigyan ng karapatan to violate our other rights”.
CHR should also look closely on this, and teach these people that respecting the other rights of the people is also their obligation and take action on this para makatulong din sa kanilang HR consciousness building among gov personnel.
Thanks again and please continue reading articles here in HRonlinePH.
I strongly agree to the two comments I’ve read, very simple lang yan we have laws in this country pero hindi na iimplement ng maayos, and one of this is itong nangyayari sa BI, they’re really not thinking na ang paghihigpit nila ay nagiging grounds pra sa mas malakihang corruption sa BI, 2 of our president won because of edsa and edsa is a symbol of a free country, but how can we say we’re living in a democratic country when in fact in this simple rights to travel e tinatanggal na nila sa mga individual na filipino even 100 years I doubt na uunlad pa tayo, we all crying for what we want but once we get what we want we don’t care to other’s grievances that’s the reality specially here in what we so called “Democratic country”(Philippines)
naiinis lng ako everytym n nakakabasa ako ng ganitong article naawa ako s mga pinoy n ngsisisikap pra subukan ang kapalaran s ibang bansa tapos ang mga buwitreng nakaupo s immigration eh io offload lng cla eh halos buhay n ang ipinuhunan ng iba last month i leave our beloved country for malaysia as tourist cebu pacific airline me kasabay akong girl she look nice simple nmn small bag nga lng dala nya she was asked a lot of things then she started to cry begging, OMG kung pwede nga lng ako n lng ung maoffload at makasakay n lng xa grabe very unhuman masakit makakita ng kababayan n parang inagawan mo ng kanyang pangarap n makaahon s bwisit n kahirapan sa ating bayan puro satsat ang ating mahal n pangulo pero hnd nyo b nahahalata parang lalong naglaho ang karapatang pantao s knyang administrasyon..nagkamali b tyo ng binoto?ang commision of human rights nmn tv appearance to the max pg malaking tao ang involve pero pg small tym tulad ng mga naooffload nating kababayan deadma lng..haizzt PILIPINAS san k b patungo?
Excellent efforts to highlight this issue.All countries have and are fighting trafficking but such brazen denial of constitutional liberties does not exist anywhere.