Press Release - Chiz confident bicam will approve P200-m budget to reimburse offloaded passengers
Sen. Chiz Escudero is confident that the bicameral conference committee tackling the 2024 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) will accept the provision inserted by the Senate that will allow the reimbursement of Filipino passengers who were offloaded from their flights due to prolonged interrogation by immigration officers in the guise of fighting human trafficking.
Escudero, who proposed the special provision in the 2024 budget of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) during the budget deliberations at the Senate, it is but right that the government pay back the more than 32,000 affected passengers in 2022 who were not able to board their flights.
Besides, the veteran legislator pointed out, the proposed payment will not need additional budgetary requirement since the money will be charged against the BI's earnings from collections.
"Buo ang paniniwala ko na tatanggapin ito sa bicam dahil ang ginalaw ko lamang na pondo ay iyong 10 percent na nakokolekta ng Bureau of Immigration na hindi naman nila nagagamit at binabalik naman nila kada taon sa National Treasury," Escudero said in a radio interview on Sunday morning (Dec. 3).
"Ang overtime pay ng ating mga immigration officers, mga ibang gastusin ng BI para maayos ang kanilang computers, camera, etc. hindi ko naman po ginalaw iyun. So walang nabawasan, walang nasaktan. Ika nga, imbes na bumalik sa Treasury, eh 'di ibigay na lang natin sa mga na-offload ng walang sapat na basehan," he said.
According to BI records, a total of 32,404 Filipino passengers were not allowed to proceed with their flights last year, of which 472 were found to be victims of human trafficking or illegal recruitment.
"Liwanagin ko lang, ito ay retroactive provision. Lahat ng mga na-offload sa nagdaang panahon, pwedeng mag-claim. Nasa sa BI na iyan kung ano ang ire-require nila sa mga pasahero? Ticket ba? Pruweba na inoffload sila, petsa dapat na sila ay umalis, magkano nagastos sa tiket, etc. Mga requirements iyan na pwedeng ipataw ng DOJ at BI," Escudero said.
Moving forward, the senator said the Department of Justice and the BI should produce a document that will serve as a policy guideline or check list in screening outbound Filipino passengers