MANILA – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) is set to blacklist some 459 foreigners after they were found to be petitioned by fake companies.
In a press briefing at the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) on Friday, BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval said this is based on the audits by their Verification and Compliance Division (VCD).
"Through the audits, dun nakita na hindi totoo yung companies na nagpe-petition sa kanila (Through the audits, it was seen there that the companies who were petitioning them were non-existent), as well as other supporting documents. At least 79 accredited liaison officers are facing investigation by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). Ito yung mga (These are the) accredited people who can process the applications of foreign nationals with the BI," she added.
The audits came after local law enforcement agencies conducted raids which led to the discovery of scam hubs and prostitution dens posing as legitimate companies.
Under the normal procedure, Sandoval said foreigners who apply for work visas in the Philippines have to be petitioned by a legitimate company, which would then ensure that they are paying the proper taxes and complying with local laws.
She, meanwhile, said foreigners petitioned by fake companies who remain in the country will be ordered to leave.
"They would not be allowed to enter the Philippines for misrepresentation and using fake docs in their application," she added.
In a separate statement, Commissioner Norman Tansingco said four BI lawyers are also under probe in relation to the scheme.
“We are after aliens who falsify or misuse documents. Our drive against illegal aliens remains relentless, and we will continue to run after those who coddle such violators,” he added.
Last week, the BI reported its discovery of the racket, as part of its campaign to remove illegal aliens in the country.
The Bureau immediately reported the matter to the Department of Justice (DOJ), which committed to help in the investigation.
In a separate interview, DOJ spokesperson, Assistant Secretary Mico Clavano said the Department would take swift action and ensure that those involved in the spurious scheme would face the full weight of justice.
“The DOJ will have to take aggressive steps to investigate the extent of the operation and hold all those involved accountable,” he said.
1.5M arrivals seen in December
The BI, meanwhile, said it expects some 1.5 million arrivals in the country this month.
"Prior to the pandemic, ang arrivals natin (our arrivals) for December is 1.8 million, that's in 2019. Bumagsak yan (It fell) to less than 1 million during the pandemic. Ngayon (Now), it is steadily increasing. For the past months, around 1 million arrivals 'yung nakikita natin per month (we see around 1 million per month). Pataas siya ng pataas (It keeps on soaring) since January and so by December, we see 1.5 million arrivals, the total arrivals, 'yung (the) total departures, we see 1.3 or 1.4 million," Sandoval said.
She, meanwhile, urged travelers to utilize their electronic gates (e-gates).
"Currently, we have 21 e-gates, majority of them are in NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) Terminal 3 and 1. Para mas mabilis po yung processing, 'yung average na 45 seconds per passenger can be reduced to eight seconds per passenger. (This is for us to have a quicker processing -- from the average of 45 seconds per passenger, it can be reduced to eight seconds per passenger)," she added.
Sandoval said the BI also plans to expand the use of modern technology in processing travelers through the acquisition of "slimmer and smaller e-gates".
"We are planning to procure these so that by 2024, 25 percent of our manual operations would be converted to electronic and by 2025 and 2026, 50 percent of our total operations would be converted to e-gates. Approved na ang budget for the initial procurement of 25 percent (The budget for the initial procurement of 25 percent is already approved). By next year, marami-rami na po 'yung ating e-gates (we would have more e-gates) to make things faster.” (with a report from Noemi S. Reyes/PNA)