MANILA – Foreigners wanted in their homelands, including members of syndicates, sex offenders, involved in fraud, among others, have been apprehended and deported by the Bureau of Immigration (BI).
Under the watch of Commissioner Norman Tansingco, foreign fugitives were arrested including South Korean Lee Won Ho, who was arrested in September for being tagged as a kingpin in a telecom scam syndicate victimizing his compatriots.
In the same month, Fu Qihao was arrested for being wanted in China due to his involvement in a pyramid scam.
In October, the BI arrested a Ghanaian scammer posing as a missionary in the Philippines, after reports of his involvement in ATM hackings in the metro.
The removal of sex offenders in the country also remained a priority for the bureau. One of the biggest arrests was John Crotty, a 64-year-old UK national who was tagged as undesirable after having been previously convicted of sex-related crimes.
BI agents in its warden facility also blocked attempts to smuggle methamphetamine inside the detention center in September and October, which led to the filing of criminal charges against the aliens involved.
The strengthened partnership with other government agencies, including the Bureau of Customs and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, has led to the interception of American Stephen Jozeph Szuhar in September, who attempted to smuggle in PHP19 million worth of cocaine to the country.
Coordination with the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation has led to the cancellation of visas of some 48,782 foreigners, 1,424 of which have already been ordered to leave.
Meanwhile, collaboration with the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police also led to the arrest of 372 illegal aliens found to be involved in clandestine online gaming operations.
The BI has continuously fought human trafficking, rescuing victims recruited to illegally work in Thailand, Laos and Dubai.
In November, BI airport officers uncovered trafficking attempts involving fake airport passes and use of airport employees’ entrances.
Tansingco ordered the investigation of the incidents and called on other government agencies under the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking to strengthen the joint fight against illegal recruitment and human trafficking.
Other international airports in the country have also strengthened their border measures.
In October, immigration officers at the Clark International Airport arrested two Indian nationals with fake immigration stamps and a Taiwanese wanted in his country for drug-related crimes.
Tansingco also initiated the tightening of screening of foreigners from Cambodia and Vietnam, following reports from local law enforcement agencies on the uptick of kidnappings and extortion activities from syndicates hailing from two countries.
Partnership with government agencies such as the Department of Information and Communications Technology, Department of Tourism, Bureau of Quarantine, BOC, Department of Health, Department of Transportation, and the Department of Justice has led to the launch of the eTravel website, removing the arrival card requirement and consolidating data requirement of border agencies into one platform.
The Bureau, together with the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), also rolled out its updated system linked with the DMW’s database, to access overseas Filipino workers’ overseas employment certificate records in real-time, lessening paper-based requirements.
The BI has established the NAIA 24/7 one-stop-shop that caters to foreign passengers needing urgent immigration documents.
Tansingco also highlighted the key focus areas of his administration -- anti-corruption, modernization, national security, rightsizing and personnel empowerment.
“I also saw a need to strengthen the role of immigration on national security, follow the direction of the president in maximizing the personnel complement of the bureau, and of course improve the welfare of our employees,” Tansingco said in a statement.
He also capped 2022 with the soft launching of the online visa waiver project, allowing short-term tourists to easily extend their visas online, and the initiation of electronic payments for BI transactions.
"We celebrate a new beginning for the bureau. Despite the many issues and challenges in the past, we look forward to a better future," Tansingco said.
"Anticipate. Innovate. Motivate. These are the agency's direction in the next years. Anticipate what is needed, innovate to improve our services, and motivate each other to be the best public servants. Aim high BI," he added. (PNA)