Imagine yourself embarking on a grand vacation and since your relative just don’t have the luxury of taking off from work and like any Filipino family with strong family ties you accompanied your immediate relatives’ minor children to visit the homeland.
As soon as you land in Manila or Cebu the nightmare begins and you are now at wits end with the minor you accompanied for this grand vacation that turns out into a vacation in hell. Here you are being confronted by Philippine immigration officer telling you that the minor you accompanied will be detained. Say Whaaaat now, this is exactly what happened to Gabrielle Bayani then a 4 year old girl threatened with detention by Philippine Immigration Officer.
Elsa Bayani and others in the same situation has to cough up a total of P3,200.00 for varied fees and the unbelievable maze of documentations, affidavits and red tape makes getting a high secuity clearance to enter Fort knox pale in comparison in accordance with the so called WEG “requirements”. Here is how Federico Pascual described it in his column:
MIXED REACTIONS: The tales told by readers of how their minor children or grandchildren bearing foreign passports were given shabby treatment at the airport triggered sympathetic vibration in others who had gone through the same ordeal.
To recall, two readers, Elsa Bayani and Edessa Ramos (POSTSCRIPT, June 20 & 22, 2004), wrote of how the minors arriving with them were held at the airport where an obscure immigration rule was sprung on them and made to pay fees “at the discretion of the immigration commissioner.”
Well we do expect such outcome do we? Unfortunately people seem to miss the point on this WEG issue, if indeed this was intended to protect the minors from being a charge of the state what’s up with the fee? What is this fee for anyway? Is it to assign a 24 hour security detail to “protect” the minor? What’s up with the commissioner having a discretionary power on who should be detained or not? Is this not a clear opportunity for “hulidap” (robbery hold up committed by rouge police personnel) or a temptation for immigration officers to use this “discretion” to bleed Balikbayan and non Philippine citizen tourist alike of hard earned depreciating dollars?
Federico Pascual in his column is an exercise in contradiction of sorts and failed to grasp the real issue being raised by the harassed passengers when he described what Frank R. Cimafranca of the Philippine consulate general in Geneva as enlightening item, to quote:
“I would like to believe that the incidents complained about arose because of miscommunication or, perhaps, the failure of some of our immigration officers to properly explain the law and regulations. And ‘proper explanation' entails a lot of patience and courtesy.
“In our culture we do not like to get caught or entangled in some legalistic bind. We resent procedures that are too formal and impersonal. As Filipinos, we need to communicate with one another in a more informal and personal way, including ‘explaining what the law and regulations are all about.'”
Apparently Cimafranca is missing the point and only shows their disrespectful attitude towards balikbayans and tourist. Of course there will be an “incident” because of the anomalous requirements of the “law” and why such law even exist. To put this in the simplest of terms, if you are in a roomful of thieves will you leave your wads of cash on the table? What precisely are they trying to accomplish with this WEG anyway? I dare say nothing except a perfect opportunity or temptation for corruption plain and simple due to the fact that upon payment of the fees, detention still falls under the discretion of the immigration commissioner.
This issue has been relentlessly pursued with passion by Elsa Bayani since 2004 who wants to see the fee in this this law scrapped or reduced. Despite her sheer determination we have not seen any resolution to this perfect opportunity for corruption. It is only through your help by pressuring your representatives and senators in the Philippines to scrap this anomalous fee requirement of WEG to pressure the lawmakers to do something constructive for the sake of tourism. Again, to put this in the simplest of terms, you cannot expect your wads of cash you left on the table out in the open hoping no one will touch it in a roomful of thieves? This is precisely what this WEG has accomplished, a temptation and opportunity for corruption due to the fact upon payment of the fees, detention falls under the discretion of the immigration commissioner.
Here is a quote on Elsa Bayani's email posted at Tapatt of Antonio Abaya:
In my research regarding this issue of minors entering the Philippines, I have documented inconsistencies in the implementation of this law despite the original provisions of RA 6768, amended by RA 9174, and the implementation rules from the Aquino to the Estrada administrations. These inconsistencies are PERFECT OPPORTUNITIES FOR CORRUPTION and have caused many returning “balikbayans” to harbor bad images abroad about the Philippine government which we now consider VERY CORRUPT IN THESE AND OTHER INSTANCES. If this is a law in effect or a rule regarding the entry of ‘balikbayans’ covered by such law or rules, we need clarification in order to know what to expect and to decide whether, under such unpleasant surprises upon arrival at the airports, we still want to visit the Philippines by condoning such CORRUPT PRACTICES.
If you want to take an active role and participate in this issue you can join Elsa Bayani at Initiative 2010. To learn more on WEG click HERE for the details of Elsa Bayani and Gabrielle's harrowing experience click HERE. If you don't think this issue is not that important then think again..... its the prevailing attitude and disrespect to Overseas Filipinos that is the reason why this WEG even exist.
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