You are going on vacation abroad. You anticipate the fun and excitement as you review your list of activities and schedules. You imagine the picturesque landscape and the good food in the country of your destination. You queue in for travel tax without complaining.
You are now on your last check-in counter at the immigration, excited to board the plane. You are so happy conversing with your friends when suddenly, the immigration officer holds you because your name is on the immigration hit list. You are told there is a court-issued hold-departure order (HDO) against you and you wonder why or how in the world you got that because you are sure you have no pending case in court, not even at the prosecutor’s office.
Your excitement suddenly turns into anger and fear because you are alleged to be facing a criminal case before the regional trial court but you are sure you have not received any subpoena. Worse, there is no way for the immigration officer to immediately ascertain the full identity of the person in the HDO because it only contains the first and last name of the person— no middle name, no birth date.
The immigration officer only releases you after realizing that the HDO is for a ‘he’, not a ‘she’.
Worse, you find out your plane took off five minutes before your release.
So, where is justice? How does the court establish the full identity of the real suspect? How about the immigration? What if the name used is only an alias? Should the innocent party continue to suffer?
I have been in the broadcast media for 11 years now and since I started, I have been receiving complaints about HDOs causing damage upon innocent travelers. Thus, this should be a friendly reminder to BID Commissioner Fred Mison to consider improving the system on verifying passenger identities.
By the way, for those who are planning to travel abroad, you can check if you have a hold departure order or if you are a namesake of someone who has one. If your name is in the hit list, I am sorry but you will need to apply for BI clearance. But it is not that simple. Your application for clearance must be accompanied by a certification from the branch clerk of court that issued the HDO, an NBI clearance and an Affidavit of Denial. Do you realize the hassle? And I have not even mentioned the expenses you will have to incur just to get cleared. A court certificate costs P200 if you do not approach a fixer. An NBI certificate costs up to as much as P415; an affidavit is at least P150 and then there is an express fee of P500 at the immigration.
Note, however, that this immigration clearance is valid only for a year. You will need to get a new clearance and go through the same hassle and incur additional expenses if you wish to travel again unless your namesake has been delisted.
But why need to go through such process when the namesake had established that he/she is not the person subject of the HDO? In the first place, why should innocent people suffer the inconvenience of trying to clear his/her own name just because a namesake is in conflict with the law? Is it the fee? Just asking.
* * *
Anyway, the Bureau of Immigration is in hot water for the delay in the implementation of a deportation order against suspected Chinese crime lord Wang Bo. Some suspect a large amount of money caused the delay. As for Commissioner Fred Mison, he is now the subject of a demolition job. Some friends within the bureau say some people would like him removed from his juicy post for two possible reasons— to get the post and to be able to continue their money-making money business.
But despite the controversy, I think Mison is fit for the job. His integrity is intact and his passion to improve the bureau is beyond question. I observed that myself.
My narration above is based on a true story. I first posted it on my social media account and tagged Mison. I thought my story will remain in social media until I received a polite reply from the immigration chief. Unfortunately, I have deactivated my account to focus on my graduate school thesis and I could no longer retrieve our conversation.
What I remember though was his commitment to cleanse and improve the bureau to avoid such incidents.
I do not want to dwell on how Mison is now being crucified for the Wang Bo issue. That will be adding up to the burden of a good man. But I hope his “Bad guys out, Good guys in” policy to reform the bureau will continue.
To Fred Mison, carry on, soldier.
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