My cousin who lives in Mindanao was supposed to leave for Dubai. However, she was not allowed to depart from the Philippines by an immigration officer because Dubai no longer honors sponsorship coming from second cousins of passengers. The officer required her to present her employment contract, proper work visa and overseas employment certificate issued by the POEA because he was under the impression that my cousin will only be working in Dubai. But my cousin will not work in Dubai, she will only visit her second cousin. She was even asked how much money she was carrying at the time. I just want to know whether it was proper for the immigration officer to prevent my cousin from leaving.
Every person has the right to travel. Such right is enshrined under our very own Constitution. However, it is not absolute and may not be invoked at all times. As expressly provided for under Section 6, Article III of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, “x x x Neither shall the right to travel be impaired except in the interest of national security, public safety, or public health, as may be provided by law.”
More often than not, Philippine immigration officers are meticulous in assessing travelers and this is not without basis. As we may all be aware of, there are a lot of cases of human trafficking and other illegal migration concerns these days. Thus, in order to protect our countrymen from becoming victims of these crimes, stringent policies are being implemented.
For instance, Filipino travelers bound internationally are subjected not only to primary inspection but they may also go through secondary inspection at the airports. During the primary inspection, travelers are assessed on their pertinent documents such as their passports, roundtrip tickets and visas, when these are required in the country of their destination. If the immigration officer is doubtful of the documents presented by the traveler concerned or primary inspection raises suspicion that the traveler may be a vulnerable victim of human trafficking or illegal recruitment, he or she may be subjected to secondary inspection where he or she will be assessed on account of his or her age, educational attainment and financial capacity. If the traveler is not financially capable to answer for the expenses of her tour, an affidavit of support from his or her relative may be presented indicating therein that their relationship is within the 4th civil degree of consanguinity or affinity presented together with other supporting documents (Guidelines on Departure Formalities for International-Bound Passengers in all Airports and Seaports in the Country, Department of Justice Memorandum LML-M-03A12-001).
Applying the foregoing in the situation of your cousin, we believe that there is nothing improper as to how she was assessed by the immigration officer. We do not discount the fact that she has the right to travel. Nevertheless, she must substantiate her capacity to travel abroad. Being asked how much her money was at the time may be considered as standard procedure. As we may all know, the cost of living in Dubai is higher compared here in the Philippines. Hence, she must establish that she has enough finances to answer for her entire trip.
In addition, the immigration officer may not be compelled to entertain the sponsorship from her second cousin because, pursuant to the Guidelines, only sworn statements of support coming from relatives within the 4th civil degree of consanguinity or affinity may be considered.
Should you or your cousin have further immigration-related queries, it would be more prudent for you to visit the Bureau of Immigration at Magallanes Drive, Intramuros, Manila or any of its provincial satellite offices.
We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same.
Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org