MANILA, Philippines – Five undocumented Chinese immigrants were detained following the raid of a shopping mall by immigration operatives, said Bureau of Immigration (BI) chief Siegfred Mison on Tuesday, December 17.
The Chinese nationals were identified as Wu Jinhua, Zhang Zuxin, Shi Yupei, Li Shengyang, and Fu Derong.
The raid occurred last December 11 in Binondo-based 168 mall, where foreign nationals allegedly engage in business activities without the necessary working visa. Intelligence reports in the BI supported this claim.
"These foreign nationals deprive our countrymen of the opportunity to earn a living. Under our laws, no foreign national is allowed to work in the Philippines without securing a working permit," said the immigration bureau in a statement.
Binondo is considered a Chinese enclave.
A total of 81 were nabbed during the raid and investigated accordingly. Three of them were identified as Filipino citizens and immediately released.
Below is the result of the preliminary investigation:
Atty Cris Villalobos of the BI Intelligence and Law Division said the 5 Chinese nationals detained will be charged under the Philippine Immigration Act of 1940 or the Commonwealth Act (CA) 613.
CA 613 is one of the earlier immigration laws of the country and has been amended by various Republic Acts.
Mison said an immigration law needs to be passed in Congress, adding that his bureau has provided the legislative chamber of their own version of the bill.
Cagayan de Oro City Rep Rufus Rodriguez and Abante Mindanao Party-list Rep Maximo Rodriguez filed a bill updating the "antiquated provisions" of CA 613. Rodriguez said the law is unresponsive to new developments in issues surrounding immigration, citing reports on the involvement of illegal aliens in organized crimes.
The bill also includes guidelines on the matter of "refugees, stateless persons and asylees, plus the provision of stiff penalties for trafficking of persons."
The immigration commissioners will be reviewing the charges against the Chinese nationals on December 19, said Villalobos.
"We are preparing the charge sheet and the order of summary deportation this coming Board of Commissioners on Thursday," he said. "Once it is signed, we will implement the summary deportation order upon ensuring that they have no derogatory record at the NBI."
The BI, he explained, has to make sure the illegal aliens to be deported have no pending criminal cases in the country so as not to "frustrate our court system."
Bribery and politicking?
Certain quarters have raised concerns of a bribery involving the release of the foreign nationals, wherein a politician requested for their liberty at a certain price.
The BI chief denied having taken the bribe.
"Walang kumausap sa akin o sa hepe ng aming intelligence o ng aming legal. Sinunod namin ang aming SOP dito sa bureau (Nobody talked to me or the chief of our intelligence or legal [division]. We followed the standard operating procedure here at the bureau)," he said.
In a statement, the immigration bureau called the allegation "a malicious rumor."
"For the record, no politician has ever approached the Bureau of Immigration and asked for the release of some Chinese nationals. Likewise, no sum of money will ever convince us to break our sworn duty to implement our laws for the Filipino People," it assured the public.
The December 11 operation, it added, was "duly covered by a Mission Order and authorized by the Department of Justice."
"Prior to the operation, our intelligence operatives conducted a surveillance operation," it said.
u0022 Photo by Buena Bernal/Rappler
Mison explained that warnings against illegal aliens have been repeatedly announced by his bureau, urging them to apply for the needed documents.
"Ang BI, ayaw namin manghuli at magkulong ng tao. Ang gusto namin ay kayo ay magbayad at sumunod sa Immigration. Kung kayo ay may tourist visa, it should always be processed for extension here at the BI. Kung kayo ay magtratrabaho, yung tourist visa, kailangan i-convert to working visa," said the BI Commissioner.
(The BI doesn't want to arrest or detain people. What we want is that you pay and follow Immigration. If you have a tourist visa, it should always be processed for extension here at the BI. If you will work, there is a need to convert your tourist visa into a working visa.)
A no-arrest policy was announced by the BI on October and November, prior to the Binondo raid. Illegal aliens willing to report to the immigration bureau on their own accord were spared from detention.
"We ask the foreign nationals to voluntary surrender if they think they have a fake stamp or they are overstaying. Pumunta po kayo sa amin. Hindi po naming kayo huhulihin or aarestohin (Go to our office. We will not arrest you.)," he said.
"Kung di pa rin sila sumusunod at nagcocomply, ipapagpatuloy namin ang pagreraid (If they still refuse to comply, we will continue our raids)," he added as a warning.
The BI Chief said, however, there is a current shortage of immigration personnel, making their job more difficult.
"We have a shortage. Just remember, for every port of entry namin sa immigration, meron din pong presence ang Bureau of Customs. Ang Bureau of Customs, 4,000 plus ang kanilang authorized plantilla items. Medyo malaki ata pong deperensiya," he said.
(Just remember, for every port of entry of the immigration, the Bureau of Customs has a presence. The Bureau of Customs has 4,000 plus authorized plantilla items. The difference is quite large.)
The BOC deals with the entry of items into the country, while the BI with the entry of people.
The BI has 1,208 authorized plantilla positions with almost 600 of its personnel deployed in airports. The government plans to hire 200 more personnel for the BI in 2014 to augment the shortage and aid in its target of 10 million tourist arrivals by 2016. – Rappler.com