The Bureau of Immigration (BI) defended its tight screening of Filipinos departing for abroad, saying the move is necessary to prevent the exodus of victims of human trafficking, illegal recruitment and even drug mules.

“They should understand that we are doing this to protect our poor countrymen from being victimized by criminal syndicates who take advantage of their poverty and their desire for greener pastures abroad,” Immigration Commissioner Ricardo David Jr. said in a statement.

David said the BI’s drive against human trafficking necessitates the stricter screening of departing Filipino tourists, especially those bound for countries known to be major destinations of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

He added it is only natural for immigration officers to assess the totality of circumstances of every Filipino travelers to determine if the passenger is indeed a legitimate tourist traveling for pleasure abroad.

The immigration chief pointed out that disguising their victims as tourists is the usual modus operandi employed by illegal recruiters to circumvent the ban on the departure of undocumented OFWs.

David, however, stressed that the intensified drive against trafficking should not be an excuse for overzealous immigration officers to be arrogant and abusive towards passengers.

Saying he will never condone such acts, David urged the public to file complaints with his office against immigration officers who exhibit such bad behaviors.

BI Spokesperson, Lawyer Maria Antonette Mangrobang also justified the immigration officers’ acts in demanding the presentation of documents such as income tax returns, bank accounts and employment certificates.

Mangrobang added that rigid screening is usually done on those departing for countries which are the usual jump-off points for undocumented OFWs bound for Europe and Middle East.

She also appealed to those who have complaints against abusive immigration officers that may report their experiences through telephone numbers +63-2-5273281 or +63-2-5273248

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