A cash windfall awaits the almost 3,000 rank-and-file employees of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) as soon as the required guidelines allowing the bureau to again use its income for operational purposes is completed.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd disclosed over the weekend that a technical working group (TWG) would be created to draft the guidelines for the use of the bureau’s “express lane fund (ELF)” as payment for overtime pay and other costs of services incurred by the bureau.
Aguirre said he has sought the help of Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno and Commission on Audit (COA) Chairman Michael Aguinaldo for the formation of the TWG on March 13.
The TWG is in line with President Rodrigo Duterte’s veto message in the 2018 General Appropriations Act (GAA).s
The President had vetoed the use of the ELF in the 2017 GAA.
Express lane charges are additional cost being paid by aliens who want to fast track the processing of their documents. It is used as a source of funding to pay for the services of the bureau’s confidential agents, contractual employees, and other job orders, and overtime times fees.
As a consequence of the President’s veto, immigration employees were no longer paid overtime fees as all payment collected from express lane charges were remitted to the National Treasury.
Lower salary grade employees were the most affected by the presidential veto on the use of express lane charges.
Aguirre appealed the President’s veto, saying that the elimination of express lane charges have serious implications on the delivery of the BI’s mandate as it would result to the displacement of about 1,000 or 73 percent of the bureau’s workforce.
The BI has 2,671 personnel, composed of 1,696 organic/permanent, presidential appointees, coterminous (63); and 975 confidential agents, job orders, and computer personnel (37 percent). It needs at least 4,000 personnel to effectively deliver its mandates.