The minority bloc in the House of Representatives has welcomed the second reading approval of the measure that would enable the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to embark on an aggressive plan to modernize its systems and professionalize its staff.
This developed as four Japanese fugitives were deported by the BI to face charges for committing numerous crimes in Tokyo.
Meanwhile, the BI launched an intensive manhunt for amissing South Korean fugitive since early morning Sunday.
The House approved unanimously approved House Bill 8203, or the proposed BI Modernization Act, which was among the priority measuresadopted by the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC).
“We are counting on the full automation and digitization of the BI’sprocesses and services to reinforce border security and improve travel experience,” said the bloc’s leader, 4Ps Rep. Marcelino Libanan, one of the bill’s principal authors.
Libanan originally introduced the BI modernization bill in 2004, when he was representative of the lone district of Eastern Samar inCongress. He refiled the bill last year upon his election as 4Ps party-list representative.
The bill authorizes the BI to retain in a trust fund “no more than P1.2 billion” of its annual income from fees, fines, and penalties.
The money would then be used to bankroll the BI’s information technology (IT) projects, among other modernization plans, and to build up the capabilities of immigration officers.
Under the bill, the salary grades assigned to junior immigration officers would also be bumped up by two notches to allow the BI to attract qualified staff.
At present, due to low pay, 742 of the BI’s 2,795 authorized permanent positions remain unfilled, translating to a 26 percent vacancy rate.
Attached to the Department of Justice, the BI enforces the country’s immigration, citizenship, and alien admission and registration laws. Libanan served as BI Commissioner for three years during the Arroyo administration.
The reforms that Libanan introduced during his stint at the BI became the subject of an Asian Institute of Management (AIM) graduate program case study, entitled “Transforming the Bureau of Immigration.”
The study recognized Libanan’s innovations at the BI that “resulted to unprecedented revenue collection, enhancement of the country’s climate for investment and employment generation, improved service due to procedures simplification and systems computerization and capability enhancement and moral transformation of BI personnel.”
The four Japanese deportees were identified as Fujita Kairi, 24; Kumai Hitomi, 25; Terashima Haruma, 28; and Sato Shohei, 32 boarded a Japan airlines flight to Narita after having been tagged as undesirable aliens by the BI.
Fujita and Kumai were arrested on March 10 in Paranaque City. The two had standing arrest warrants issued by the Tokyo Summary Court in September 2022 for theft in violation of the Japanese Penal Code. Both were suspected to be involved in the ‘Luffy’ case that previously made headlines in Japan for committing a string of violent crimes in Tokyo.
Terashima was intercepted at the BI’s Satellite office in SM Aura, Taguig last February 28 following an attempt to extend his tourist visa. Terashima faces a similar case in Japan, after reportedly impersonating a police officer and an employee of the Japan Ministry of Finance to steal ATM cards.
Sato, on the other hand, is also wanted in Japan for theft and was arrested in April 24 by FSU officers along Newport Blvd. in Pasay City.
The four have been included in the BI’s blacklist of aliens, effectively barring their return to the country.
The Korean, identified as Kang Juchun, 38, managed to breach the facility’s perimeter by scaling a 20-foot fence with barbed wires at 2 in the morning. Authorities believe he may have sustained injuries after falling.
Tansingco said Kang was initially apprehended last February 10 by immigration officers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 2 after arriving from Bangkok.
He was found to have an Interpol red notice hit for murder charges and abandonment of a dead body. He was charged and transferred to the BI’s facility in Taguig prior to deportation.
He was reported to have abused a blind spot in the facility’s CCTV where he climbed the fence and fell on the cemented road.
“The BI is working in close collaboration with local law enforcement agencies to locate and apprehend him swiftly,” said Tansingco. “Specialized teams have been deployed to various locations, following reliable leads to capture the fugitive,” he added.
“This is a serious breach of our facility’s security, and we have initiated a thorough investigation to determine lapses that allowed this to occur as well as take necessary steps to prevent similar incidents in the future,” Tansingco said.
Both the Department of Justice and the Korean Embassy have also been informed of the incident.
Tansingco added that they have increased the height of the perimeter fence with barbed wires and added another watch tower to improve the facility’s security.