BI Seeks To Impose More Fines Against Erring Airlines
Commissioner Jaime Morente of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) is currently pushing for the passage of a new immigration law that will help the agency effectively impose penalties against erring airlines. This follows after the Commission on Audit (COA) recommended that BI employees be charged administratively for not implementing BI policies and not collecting fines.
In response, Morente said that BI needs more “teeth” in imposing penalties and be equipped with the necessary legal and administrative tools to effectively carry out its mandate.
Section 44 of the Immigration Act states that vessels or aircrafts that bring in improperly documented aliens may be subjected to a fine of P500 for each person brought, and should not be granted clearance until the fine has been settled.
However, according to COA’s Annual Audit Report for 2018, “The Order of Exclusion imposing administrative fines and sanctions as prescribed in Section 44(d) of the Philippine Immigration Act of 1940 was not strictly monitored [by BI personnel]. Thus, airline companies were allowed to depart without paying their fines, which at year-end accumulated to P273,011,500.00.” The report further recommends that BI employees be charged for giving airline clearances and not collecting penalties.
Morente disclosed that the penalty was increased in 1999 to P50,000 by then BI Commissioner Leandro Verceles, but its legality was questioned by airline companies, resulting in their non-payment of the fines.
The BI Commissioner also said that in order to make the airline companies take the charges seriously, he requested the Department of Justice (DOJ) to reinstate the order allowing them to collect the P50,000 fine. “In compliance to the recommendations of the COA, we will be enforcing collection of the P500 fine,” he added. But he also stated that they will continue lobbying for the fee to be increased.