By Billy Begas
The cousin of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has expressed concern over the way immigration officers are dealing with individuals whose names resemble those who have derogatory records.
During the recent hearing of the House Committee on North Luzon Growth Quadrangle, chairperson and Ilocos Norte Rep. Angelo Marcos Barba narrated his experience with an immigration officer when he arrived in the country from Hawaii.
Barba did not mention the particular date when the incident happened but based on his narration he is already an elected official.
He narrated that he came from Honolulu, Hawaii, and passed through the regular arrival process.
“But an immigration officer called my attention, sa arrival yan ha, her first question was do I have an NBI clearance? So I replied why? I have been travelling in and out of the country, tapos na ang Edsa-Edsa nun eh kaya pinapayagan na ko nun,” Barba said.
He continued, “I was surprised pero medyo irritated kasi pagod ka eh. It’s a 10-hour flight. Gusto ko nang umuwi dahil naghihintay na ang Ilocos Norte sakin. I still have a lot of things to do in the district so I replied I have travelled in and out already and I even showed her my diplomatic passport. Hindi po ako papayagan bigyan ng diplomatic passport kung may record ako.”
“And then she mentioned ‘kasi ho may kapangalan kayo eh, Eugene Barba’. Ang layo naman sa Eugenio nun. Eugenio Angelo M. Barba ako eh,” the lawmaker said.
Jose Dennis Javier, BI Immigration Officer III said that the agency is currently upgrading its system to avoid inconveniencing travelers.
“We are actually purging our derogatory system from our old records because apparently there are encoded names of people that are incomplete from Courts, so what we are doing right now is we are trying to purge the old records and most of the time when immigration officers conduct primary inspection they usually do series of basic questions for passengers whether this person is the actual person (with a derogatory record) or not,” Javier said.
He added that “Sometimes there are names that are alias or a.k.a that’s why some officers tend to go ask further question. I think this is what happened to some passengers.”
“Like me,” Barba interjected.
Javier replied, “Yes, honorable chairman.”
“But we are addressing this because we are digitizing everything right now. We are going towards the direction of pre-checking all passengers before they depart and arrive… With the e-travel and the digital age we are integrating all systems right now at the airport,” Javier added.
Barba thanked the immigration officer and said, “Kasi naman if this could happen to a public official papaano naman kung ordinary citizen di ba?”