The Philippines Bureau of Immigration has apologized for the inconvenience one of their officers caused a Filipina passenger, whose story went viral on TikTok after she missed her flight due to a lengthy immigration interview that involved the officer asking for her yearbook and graduation photos.
Freelance writer Cham Tanteras was on her way to Israel to spend the Christmas holidays alone when she was held up at the immigration counter and brought to a separate office for additional questioning. This caused her to miss her flight, which cost PHP19,000 (US$346.20), and book another plane ticket, shelling out another PHP24,000 (US$437.31) the next day.
@chamtanteras I missed my flight because of the immigration! #immigration #naia #travelphilippines #travelabroad #israel #palestine #naiaterminal1 #immigrationissues #travelingnomad #traveltips #islandgirl #siargao #islandlife #fyp #foryoupage ♬ original sound – Cham | Siargao Island Life 🌴
In response to her video, the Bureau of Immigration released a statement online, writing: “A social media post recently made rounds on Tiktok wherein a Filipina passenger recounted her unpleasant experience with immigration personnel in December 2022. She shared how she was asked numerous questions which she deemed irrelevant. The management immediately conducted an investigation and asked the immigration officer involved for a full report on the incident. The passenger was eventually allowed to travel after filling out the Border Control Questionnaire and undergoing secondary inspection. We apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused the Filipina passenger and other Filipino passengers.”
The bureau then segued into issues of human trafficking and illegal recruitment in its statement. “In 2022, a total of 32,404 Filipinos were deferred departure, and 472 of which have been found to be victims of human trafficking or illegal recruitment. The number also includes 873 who misrepresented themselves, or presented fraudulent documents. At least 10 have been found to be either underaged or minors, attempting to depart to work abroad.”
The bureau said that human trafficking and illegal recruitment “is real and is happening every day. No less than the President has expressed his concern on the increasing number of victims of trafficking.”
“Recently, the BI noted numerous young urban professionals — those with good travel records, gainfully employed, and are graduates of good schools — that have been victimized by a cryptocurrency scam syndicate that transports them to Myanmar and other Asian countries. Victims have been promised a salary of 1,000 USD per month, but were forced to scam Westerners. If unable to reach their quota, they were subjected to corporal punishment. We have initiated coordination with popular social media platforms to discuss ways to combat this issue.”
The bureau again asked for “consideration and understanding as the agency is constrained to implement strict measures to assess departing passengers. The management has likewise reminded its personnel to conduct their inspections professionally, and in an efficient manner, to prevent future similar incidents from occurring.”
However, the apology did not sit well with netizens, who still felt that the bureau was not being accountable for the incident.
“The passenger was eventually allowed to travel but you forgot to mention that she missed her flight and was forced to rebook another flight at her expense. If you did not ask for irrelevant questions and asked for inappropriate documents (yearbook, really? Do your officers travel abroad bringing their yearbooks with them?) then you wouldn’t experience complaints on social media. Then you also wouldn’t have extremely long lines in immigration counters. The whole country acknowledges your intent to fight human trafficking but it can be done correctly without harm done to legit tourists or passengers,” one wrote.
“That’s it??? How about the monetary cost to the inconvenienced traveler???” another asked.
“I don’t have a problem with [Bureau of Immigration] being diligent. I have a problem with the lack of accountability for inconvenience caused and inability to use existing systems and social media to verify problematic or questionable identities,” another said.
“Refund the flights missed especially if you are the cause of delay. Have some consideration for Filipinos making a living to earn and travel,” one said.
“LOL. Only in the Philippines where immigration is stricter with departing passengers than other countries’ visa interviews,” another wrote.
“Gaslighting at its finest ladies and gents. They also have not even refunded the cost to the inconvenienced traveler, and what disciplinary action they took against the immigration personnel,” another said.
Tanteras herself also took to the comments section addressing the bureau, which apparently did not respond to a letter of complaint she sent over email.
“That’s me in that TikTok video. I emailed you of my letter of complaint regarding the issue. Please respond accordingly and be accountable,” she said.
The Filipina shared on TikTok that she was even taken to a holding office, where the immigration officer asked her for her yearbook and graduation photos. Read more.
Bureau of Immigration raises people’s eyebrows after banning photo or video recording of its airport officers
Of course, this follows the nationwide embarrassment of an officer caught on camera allegedly stealing from a Thai tourist. Read more.
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