• BI: Doing what is right and fair

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    THE Bureau of Immigration is poised to reshuffle employees in its offices nationwide. Officials cite “exigency of the service” as basis, a vague explanation that tends to muddle rather than explain the issue. We guess that BI Chief Commissioner Siegfried Mison is doing now what he did in 2013 when he ordered 19 BI officials posted at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and seven other airports nationwide reshuffled as part of the new management’s efforts to rotate the assignments of personnel and root out corruption in the agency.

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    We like the anti-corruption motive.

    But there is no doubt about the effect: many employees will be displaced, and the dislocation could shatter their lives.

    A reshuffle may appear as a harmless exercise of management prerogative. But it never leads to a garden path where one can make a leisurely stroll and inhale the pungent smell of fresh roses. A reshuffle usually leads to clash of heads and egos and litigation, and finding a solution is like making an arduous journey over rough and rugged road.

    Immigration employees are now simmering with resentment and fear, according to some officials, who asked not be identified. The issue could boil into an open conflict. It could paralyze the bureau and embarrass the country before the world.

    Management can cite a good number of reasons to support the reshuffle. Also, officials can hide behind the bureaucratic language to mask their intentions. But in the end some employees will benefit, while others will be dislocated.

    A reshuffle will breed resentment when its intention is to favor a chosen few. It’s a dangerous path to take for those who wield tremendous power over their subordinates.

    A reshuffle strikes fear in the hearts of civil servants and the catch phrase “in the exigency of the service” can be a tool to take out people from the posts, transferring them to strange places, away from their families, forcing them to make considerable adjustments in their lives. It is a tool to clear the way for favored employees to take over choice positions, one senior official said. “It is not for exigency of the service but for exigency of a chosen few,” the official said.

    Officials said Immigration Commissioner Siegfred Mison wants to implement the reshuffle next month and it will involve primarily immigration officers in international airports, which was done in 2013.

    The Immigration Officers Association of the Philippines (IOAP) has opposed the reshuffle, which they said was without basis and made without proper consultation with employees. “Reassignment will cause significant financial dislocation, or will cause difficulty or hardship on the part of the employee because of geographical location,” IOAP said in letter to Mr. Mison.

    The group asked him to get the approval of the Department of Justice, which has supervisory function over the bureau. It said the explanation of Mr. Mison that rotation would expose immigration officers to different international airports to gain experience was unacceptable because rules and regulations on departures and arrivals never change regardless of the location.

    IOAP said reassignments should be on case-to-case basis subject to certain restrictions but “wholesale and series of rotations have no legal basis.” The group cited a Circular from the Civil Service Commission that discourages “reassignments that is done indiscriminately or whimsically because the law is not intended as a convenient shield for appointing authority to harass a subordinate in the pretext of advancing and promoting public interest.”

    We hope Mr. Mison makes the right decision and do what is fair to everybody–the employees to be affected as well as the citizenry who would be benefited if the reshuffle leads to less corruption.

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