Social media maintains fury towards ‘profiling’ immigration officers as more stories surface

Social media is still talking about the story of Cham Tanteras, a female passenger who ended up missing her flight and booking another ticket worth PHP24,000 (US$437.31), after being questioned further by a Bureau of Immigration (BI) officer who even asked for her yearbook.

Although the BI has apologized for Tanteras’ experience and explained that the strict measures were in place to curb human trafficking, many users were not satisfied by the BI’s explanation and even came with their own unsavory accounts.

Take the case of Roland Cerera, who recounted an experience dealing with an immigration officer in 2015 while on his way to a company training in Singapore for a dining guide.

Cerera was traveling with his boss and believed he was singled out at the time for being a new hire.

“It was technically my first day at work, too – that being said, I do not have my company ID, and heck, I haven’t even signed the contract yet – things were moving too fast during the time I was employed at OpenRice,” he shared on social media.

That said, Cerera’s papers were in order and had his full itinerary ready.

“My stay in the country was just for two days. I have my itinerary – airport, OpenRice HQ, hotel, airport, and home. I have my two-way ticket together with my hotel accommodation all bought by the company with the receipts attached. I have a laptop bag and knapsack with 2 days worth of clothes,” he wrote.

While his boss managed to get through immigration with no problems, Cerera was informed that he would have to speak with another officer before being allowed entry.

Cerera narrated he was taken to another part of the airport, where a young male officer did his interview. “I greeted him as I was trying to stay calm and courteous – I was retaining my composure because I just wanted it to be over with. The first questions were expected, like the purpose of the trip and how long I will be staying,” he shared.

“As this guy appears to be taking his sweet time thinking of tougher questions, I can’t help but overhear the conversation of others who were interviewed. I can hear one being asked to prove that they are indeed engaged by showing their Facebook profiles. Another was asked about her properties in the province. I, unfortunately, did not encounter someone being asked for a yearbook, else I would have laughed hysterically,” he added.

Cerera shared that he provided full details and his documents, but the “strange questions” began after he was asked for his company ID, to which he said he did not possess yet. 

“He then asked if I have anything that will guarantee that I am coming back to the Philippines. My answers were candid and told him that I have a family and then, two daughters and I am currently trying to finish law school. In a very insulting and unimpressed tone, he said, ‘Talaga? patingin nga ng ID! (Really? Show me your ID, then!)’”

Cerera happened to bring his law school ID with him, and shared that the officer “inspected it like a diamond appraiser examining a rare gemstone! I could feel the admiration oozing from his every pore as he studied my identification with such intense interest. It’s truly a privilege to have someone so invested in the mundane details of my life.”

Cerera was then asked to enumerate his law school subjects, which he found “truly disturbing.” 

“It is difficult to forget the sheer joy of being interrogated like a criminal suspect about my academic pursuits. It’s like a game show where the prize is the satisfaction of knowing that I can impress a rude and intrusive stranger with my ability to memorize information,” he shared.

Cerera claimed that the officer was intent on offloading him based on his demeanor, adding he could sense the officer’s “bravado as he feels that he has won over a lowly lawyer wannabe.” Cerera then called for his boss, who spoke with the same officer and was asked to fill out a form acting as his “guarantor” for the trip.

“As I was walking towards the exit, the constipated idiot even remarked ‘Babalik ka ha? (You’ll come back, okay? I was just shaking my head as I walked away – I’d rather not make a scene because the ordeal was already too stressful to exert more energy,” he wrote.

Cerera refuted the BI’s claims that their department was combating human trafficking. “Your people are profiling us based on their untrained and biased perceptions, and we just love being treated like victims or criminals for no reason. Keep up the great work!” He sarcastically wrote.

“How flattering it is to be treated like a potential criminal for simply being an employee, a parent, and a student! I mean, who wouldn’t want their personal life and achievements scrutinized by a stranger with a bad attitude? It’s not like we have better things to do, like actually contributing to society or enjoying our personal freedoms. Nope, let’s just revel in the joy of being treated like second-class citizens,” he said.

His post was shared over 8,000 times as of writing, with many commiserating with the poster.

“Terrible that you had to go through this humiliation,” one wrote.

Others believed the officers were power tripping passengers.

“Typical Pinoy. They’re given just a bit of power and they drown immediately. It’s power tripping. They’re putting out their frustrations on others or they probably find joy in seeing other people suffer,” another said.

“This has to stop. These officers bully passengers as if they have to meet quotas on how many they need to offload and you happen to be someone they randomly chose,” one remarked.


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