• BI hits Budget chief for ‘misinformation’

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    The rank-and-file of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Friday got back at Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno for allegedly peddling lies and misinformation on the issue of the non-payment of their overtime pay, which had led to passenger queues in the immigration counters of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in the past several days.

    In a joint statement, the BI workers’ union Buklod and Immigration Officers Association of the Philippines (IOAP) asked Diokno to be truthful in his statements, saying they did not only distort facts but have also further demoralized the bureau’s employees.

    “Contrary to Secretary Diokno’s assertion that immigration officers are job order [contractual]employees who could easily be replaced, they are actually permanent employees occupying plantilla positions and who enjoy security of tenure protection under our civil service laws,” they said.

    The two groups also downplayed Diokno’s claim that some 200 soldiers are already being trained to replace immigration officers who resigned or have gone on leave, noting that there is no concerted or deliberate effort by immigration officers at the airports to go on mass leave or resign en masse to pressure the government to lift the presidential veto on the use of the express lane fund (ELF) to pay for their overtime.

    “There is no deliberate or organized effort by our members to paralyze our operations and inconvenience the traveling public. If by coincidence our members are absent or are on sick leaves at the same time, these are forced and caused by their inability to shoulder their expenses in going to work, not because they wanted to abandon their duties,” the groups said.

    An immigration officer’s job, according to them, is “very sensitive and critical.

    “You just don’t put somebody in the airport immigration booth and tell him to stamp every traveler who presents himself for inspection. Otherwise, our national security will be compromised. We are not called gatekeepers for nothing,” the statement said.

    It added that immigration officers hired by the bureau actually undergo rigid screening and training on immigration laws, rules and procedures for four to six months at a training academy in Clark, Pampanga before they are deployed to the airports and seaports.

    “Many of our young recruits are cream of the crop who hail from some of the best schools in the country,” the statement said.

    The two groups said applicants for immigration officer must have a four-year college degree, possess professional civil service eligibility and pass difficult oral and written tests before being hired.

    The BI workers also described as not feasible the Budget department’s offer of 900 new plantilla positions that will purportedly address manpower lack in the bureau.

    They said opening new vacant positions is not the solution as it will not address the main problem of the low salaries of BI personnel.

    Earlier, Diokno said many past Presidents tried to correct the allegedly corrupt system on the continued use of ELF but were all unsuccessful because “they were blackmailed by these BI employees.”

    Diokno added that the Duterte administration would not allow itself to be taken hostage by such manipulation, citing as an example the air controllers strike in the United States during the time of the then-President Ronald Reagan.

    “You must remember that during the time of [President] Ronald Reagan some 11,345 air controllers threatened to strike. Reagan called their threat, [and]until now it’s still a third party that runs air control in the US,” he said.

    The Budget chief belied claims of low salaries, saying some of the immigration employees received as much as P96,000 per month plus 13th and 14th month pays.

    On non-payment of overtime pay, Diokno said P235 million has been appropriated in the General Appropriations Act for the purpose but the BI made no request for overtime payment. WILLIAM DEPASUPIL

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    1 Comment

    1. Malou Tiquia
      April 5 at 5:25am ·

      1. ANO BA ANG TOTOONG KWENTO SA MAHABANG PILA SA AIRPORT IMMIGRATION COUNTERS?
      Marami ang di umano ay nagri-resign at nagli-leave of absence dahil daw hindi sila nababayaran ng overtime pay? Wala katotohanan ang bintang na ito. Hindi talaga overtime pay ang hinahabol ng mga kawani ng Bureau of Immigration (BI).
      Tatlong shift na tig-walong oras ang duty ng mga immigration officers sa airport kaya papaano sila makakapag-overtime? Ganoon din sa head office, 8am hanggang 5pm ang trabaho ng mga kawani. Kung meron man na mag-overtime, bibihira ito at sandali lamang.
      2. ANO ANG HINAHABOL NILA?
      Ang gusto nila ay patuloy magamit ang Express Lane Fees (ELF) na naku-kolekta ng BI mula sa mga banyaga o foreigners na nagpapa-process ng sari-saring applications sa BI tulad ng ACR, Visa Extension etc. Upang matustusan ang ilang benepisyo.
      3. ANU-ANO ANG MGA BENEPISYO MULA SA ELF?
      Una ay ang pang-sahod sa mga kawaning tinatawag na job orders (JOs) at confidential agents na kanilang itinalaga sa mga airport at sa head office dahil umano sa kakulangan ng mga empleyado.
      Ang mga JOs at confidential agents ay hindi mga regular na empleyado at wala kailanman na employer-employee relationship sa BI. Samakatuwid, wala silang accountability.
      Napakarami nila sa BI at kadalasan sila ang nakasalang sa mga immigration counters ng airport.
      Higit sa lahat, hinahangad ng kanilang mga regular na kawani ang napakalaking dagdag na sahod o augmentation ng sweldo na katumbas ng 300 hanggang 500 porsiento ng kanilang mga sahod, na sa buong burukrasya ng Pilipinas ay sila lamang ang nag i-enjoy.
      4. BAKIT HINDI SILA MA-REGULARISE ANG JOs AT CONFIDENTIAL AGENTS?
      Marami regular plantilla positions ang binuo ng DBM para punuan nila. Ngunit hindi nila ito magawa, sa pangambang mapapasailalim sila sa mga qualifications ng isang civil servant na kailangan nilang ipasa tulad ng Civil Service Eligibility exam. Kaya hanggang ngayon ay marami sa kanila ang JOs at confidential agents lamang PERO tumatanggap ng ilang patong na mas mataas pa sa sahod ng mga regular na kawani kumpara sa ibang ahensya ng gobyerno.
      5. BAKIT TINANGGAL SA BI ANG PAGGAMIT NG EXPRESS LANE FEES?
      Ang express lane fees na ito ay tinuturing na income na ayon naman sa batas ay dapat ma-remit sa Bureau of Treasury upang ang Kongreso ang siyang mag-appropriate, na naaayon sa batas.
      Pero dahil taon-taon, naila-lobby ng mga taga-bi sa kongreso na maisingit sa GAA o budget ng Pilipinas sa tulong ng kanilang mga kaibigang mambabatas ang tinatawag na Special Provision na nagpapahintulot sa BI na gamitin ang ELF, nahahawakan at nagagalaw nila ito upang palakihin ang kanilang mga take home pay ng higit sa 300 porsyento sa pamamagitan ng pormula na sila lang ang nakakaalam kung paano. 30 years na nilang ginagawa ito, meron o wala mang Special Provision sa budget.
      Kung wala ang Special Provision, hindi po nila magagawa ang ganitong bagay dahil magiging ilegal ang pag-appropriate ng ELF.
      Kahit noong inilagay ang Special Provision, ito ay dapat ginamit sa tamang paraan. Halimbawa, OT pay para sa totoong serbisyo na overtime at alinsunod sa tamang rates. Pero hindi rin nila ito tinupad. Ilang ulit ng tinangka ng pamahalaan sa mga nakalipas na administrasyon na baguhin o alisin ang kalakaran na ito, ngunit walang nagkalakas ng loob o nagpakita ng political will dahil ang panakot ng BI ay mapa-paralyze daw ang operasyon sa mga airport pag tinanggal ito.
      Sa GAA 2017, na-veto ni PRRD ang Special Provision na muling naisingit sa budget dahil hindi na makatuwiran o makatarungan ang practice na ito.
      6. ANONG GINAWA NG DBM MATAPOS NA-VETO NI PRRD ANG SPECIAL PROVISION SA GAA 2017?
      Nagdagdag ang DBM ng 700 bagong posisyon upang ma-convert sa regular mula noong 2012 hanggang 2015 yung mga JOs at confidential agents. At nagdagdag ng Php240 milyon sa budget ng BI upang gugulin sa pambayad ng overtime ng mga kawani.
      Dito pa lamang makikita na hindi kailangan ang paggamit ng BI ng ELF. Nitong nakaraang linggo lamang, nagdagdag pa ulit ng halos 900 bagong posisyon ang DBM upang makapagdagdag ang BI ng mga regular na kawani bilang tugon sa panawagan nila na magdagdag pa ng regular na kawani. Ngayon batid na hindi nila gusto ang mga ganitong hakbang ng pamahalaan. Ngayon nakita na rin natin ang katuparan ng paralyzation sa airport na sinasabi nila. Isa lamang ang gusto nilang patunayan – na kaya nilang i-paralyze ang airport kapag hindi binawi ng pangulo ang pag-veto ng special provision sa budget. Inalis ang ganitong maling provision sa budget upang ituwid ang matagal ng mali.
      Ang lahat ng kawani sa gobyerno ay dapat patas ang natatanggap at sumasailalim sa salary standardization law. Duon tayo sa tama.