De Lima orders 16 immigration officers to explain departure of undocumented OFWs to Syria

April 4, 2012 10:10 pm 

MANILA, April 4 – The Department of Justice (DOJ) has given 16 Bureau of Immigration (BI) officers three days within which to explain why they should not be charged administratively in connection with the processing and departure of undocumented overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to Syria.

The BI is an attached agency of the DOJ.

The 16 immigration officers were asked to explain within 72 hours from the receipt of the orders pursuant to existing Civil Service and Administrative Laws.

Justice Secretary Leila De Lima required the 16 BI officials to explain in writing why the DOJ should not give them administrative sanctions based on their respective malfeasance and non-feasance in the line of their duty as reflected in the travel and departure records of repatriated OFWs from Syria.

The Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), headed by DOJ Undersecretary Jose Vicente Salazar, has formulated a set of procedures on the assessment of departing international-bound passengers in all airports and seaports nationwide primarily to reduce the discretion of immigration personnel in assessing would-be tourist workers and other departing passengers by way of strictly following the guidelines.

IACAT is the government's lead agency mandated to eradicate human trafficking and related concerns.

"The orders issued by the DOJ to these BI officials manifest our earnest efforts in curbing the incidence of public officials having a hand in human trafficking activities," Salazar said.

The Philippine government has conducted a series of repatriation procedures for almost 600 Filipinos affected by the civil strife in Syria.

IACAT took the lead role in interviewing the repatriates.

The interviews revealed that 43 percent of the repatriated OFWs were allowed to travel outside the Philippines without being encoded in the query system of the BI.

Out of the 600 repatriated Filipinos, 67 percent were not able to acquire any clearance or overseas employment certificates (OECs).

The findings and interviews conducted by DOJ prosecutors point out that 95 percent of all the repatriates were considered as victims of human trafficking.

Earlier, Salazar assured the public that IACAT will implement measures to prevent incidence of abuse, harassment and extortion at the country's exit ports and ultimately protect the public from being victims of trafficking in persons. (PNA)

RMA/PTR

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