PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte is reconsidering the lifting of his veto on temporary suspension of the use of express lane charges collected by the Bureau of Immigration (BI) in reaction to a letter of appeal from the bureau’s rank-and-file.
“It has been referred by Malacanang to the Department of Budget and Management [DBM] for further study and consideration,” BI spokesman Antonette Mangrobang told The Manila Times.
Express lane charges are additional costs being paid by a foreigner who wants to fast- track processing of his documents.
They are used as a source of funding to pay for the services of the bureau’s confidential agents, contractual employees and other job orders and for overtime pay.
According to Mangrobang, lower salary grade employees were the most affected by the presidential veto on the use of the express lane charges, particularly those receiving less than the minimum wage.
“There are immigration employees whose salary grade level is only P9,000 a month, which is below the minimum wage,” she said. “Their morale is low.”
As a consequence of the President’s veto, immigration employees were no longer paid for overtime work as payments collected from the express lane charges were remitted to the National Treasury.
Sources said many employees have already resigned, further depleting the BI’s manpower, while others who opted to remain were either always absent or going under time.
Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in a letter to the President, pointed out that the elimination of express lane fees has serious implications in the delivery of the BI’s mandate.
“The deposit of express lane charges to the general fund will automatically result inthe displacement about 1,000 or 73 percent of the bureau’s workforce by next week. The only source of income of these BI personnel is the express lane fees. Without the express lane fees, they will automatically lose their jobs and will join the unemployed population of the country, ” the letter of appeal said.
At present, the BI has 2,671 personnel composed of 1,696 organic/permanent, presidential appointees, and 975 confidential agents, job orders and computer personnel.
It supposedly needs at least 4,000 workers.
The employment of 63 personnel ends when the term of the incumbent commissioner expires.
The BI is in danger of losing 81 percent of the remaining personnel because of a meager net pay of about P6,000 to P13,000 for 24/7 duties.
Use of express charges collected by the bureau is allowed under the DOJ-BI Special Provision No. 3, which is based on Section 7-A of Commonwealth Act 613 or the Philippine Immigration Act of 1940.
The BI fears a collapse or paralysis of its operations anytime, which may compromise national security as a result of the veto that barred the agency from using its income for operational purposes. WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL