In order to improve the immigration services of the country and make them more responsive to new and increasing challenges, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go filed early July his Senate Bill 1649 or the Bureau of Immigration Modernization Act of 2020.
“Isinusulong natin sa Senado na amyendahan ang lumang batas upang mas mapabuti ang serbisyo sa immigration, mas maaalagaan ang mga Pilipino, at mas maprotektahan ang bansa sa iba’t ibang panganib na pwedeng dumating,” Go said.
“Noong taong 1940 pa ito naisabatas. Halos 80 years ago na po. Marami na pong nangyari at pwede pang mangyari sa hinaharap kung kaya’t karapat dapat rin lang na gawing akma ang batas sa kasalukuyang panahon at gawing moderno ang ating immigration services,” he added.
The Senator is referring to the Commonwealth Act 613, otherwise known as “The Philippine Immigration Act of 1940,” which provided the mandate of BI, admitting that it is “an outdated law passed during the American regime.” While amendments have been introduced over time, Go said, “the immigration system needs to be updated to reflect present challenges which confront immigration in our country.”
The proposed law aims to provide improved guidelines to closely monitor foreigners coming inside the country, such as for those who are entering the Philippines either for tourism or long-term stay. For this, SB 1649 will create a system of documentation and prescribe better procedures and requirements for admission of immigrants and non-immigrants.
BI is principally responsible for the implementation of all laws, rules and regulations concerning entry, admission, stay and departure from the Philippines of all persons. Given the new and emerging forms of threats to Filipinos, such as child sexual abuse and cross-border terrorism, the law must now be improved to better deal with these, Go explained.
“First line of defense natin ang Bureau of Immigration. Patuloy na nagbabago ang anyo at diskarte ng mga dayuhang may masamang balak na manamantala sa ating mga mamamayan. Dapat unahan ng gobyerno ang mga pagbabagong ito upang mas maprotektahan ang Pilipino laban sa terorismo at iba pang krimen na dinadala sa ating bansa,” Go said.
Other provisions of the bill include providing for categories of non-immigrants and types of visas, such as temporary visitors, transit persons, treaty traders and investors, accredited government officials, students, pre-arranged employment, religious workers, representatives of accredited international organizations and government agencies, media workers, exchange visitors, refugees, and special non-immigrants.
An upgrade of their salary grades is indicated in the bill to provide proper compensation commensurate to their profession considering the changing times.
“Sa pamamagitan ng panukalang ito, mas mapapabuti rin natin ang compensation scheme ng mga nagtatatrabaho sa ahensya. Mas maiiwasan ang katiwalian, mas mabibigyan sila ng kapasidad na pagbutihin pa ang kanila trabaho,” Go explained.
It also includes prescription of penal sanctions for violations of immigration laws and rules.
This bill also complements the other bill filed by Senator Go—Senate Bill No. 1650. SB 1650 seeks to amend Section 5 (b) of the Republic Act No. 7610 or the “Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination Act”. The proposed amendment of the Anti-Child Abuse Law will increase the penalty from reclusion temporal in its medium period to reclusion perpetua for any individual engaging in lascivious conduct or sexual activity with minors under twelve years of age.
“Mariin po nating tinututulan ang pang-aabuso sa ating mga kabataan. Kaya naman po isinusulong ko ang panukalang ito sa Senado upang masiguro na protektado ang ating mga kabataan laban sa mga ganitong pang-aabuso,” Go previously said.
“Ang pag-modernize ng ating Bureau of Immigration ay isa ring mahalagang pagtugon sa panawagang ito,” he stressed, adding the need for government to continuously evolve in order to respond to new and emerging threats brought about by the changing times.