Bill seeks ₧1.2-B Immigration Trust Fund to modernize BI

THE consolidated bill just recently approved by the House Committee on Justice on the makeover of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) aims to put up a P1.2-billion Immigration Trust Fund (ITF) to modernize the BI, touch up its pay scales and further professionalize its officers plus rank and file, a senior lawmaker said on Sunday.

Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund “LRay” F. Villafuerte Jr. said the consolidated bill on the proposed “Bureau of Immigration Modernization Act” aims to modernize the BI by expanding its organizational structure, sharpening the competencies of its personnel through career advancement programs, cutting red tape by improving data gathering and analysis and boosting employee morale through a better, more competitive salary structure.”

This consolidated bill seeks to empower the bureau to collect immigration fees, fines and penalties and to retain a third of all such collections—but not to exceed P1.2 billion—for an ITF to be administered by the proposed three-member Board of Commissioners for the modernization of the agency’s facilities and equipment, payment of employee benefits and further professionalization of its officers and employees, said Villafuerte, who is president of the National Unity Party (NUP).

The proposed Board shall be comprised  of a Commissioner with the rank of Undersecretary and two deputy commissioners each with the rank of Assistant Secretary—all three of them to be appointed by the President.

Changing demands

THE House justice panel chaired by Negros Occidental Rep. Juliet Marie Ferrer managed to expedite the committee approval of the consolidated bill on the strength of the chamber’s House Rule 10 Section 48, which allows the swift passage of measures that were already approved on third and final reading by the chamber in the immediately preceding Congress.

Villafuerte authored with three other CamSur solons House Bill (HB) 274, one of six bills that the House Committee on Justice had consolidated into one measure for this panel’s approval.

Villafuerte’s HB 274 co-authors are Reps. Miguel Luis R. Villafuerte and Tsuyoshi Anthony Horibata and Bicol Saro Rep. Nicolas Enciso VIII.

HB 274 contains provisions on the establishment of the ITF for the modernization of the bureau’s facilities and equipment, payment of employment benefits and further professionalization of officers and employees through trainings, seminars and other career advancement programs.

During recent deliberations by the Commission on Appointments (CA) on President Marcos’s designation of Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin C. Remulla, the former Cavite congressman had stressed the need for modernizing the BI’s system, partly to effectively track foreign nationals, especially the illegal ones.

HB 274 aims to modernize BI structures and mechanisms necessary for the administration of immigration laws, “in keeping with the changing demands of the country’s role in the global community.”

It also seeks “to professionalize the immigration service by instituting a rigid system of screening and selection of immigration officials and employees and promoting their development.”

Empowerment, benefits

THE bill proposed to empower the BI to handle all concerns pertaining to deportation; revocation of immigration status; re-acquisition and retention of Philippine citizenship under Republic Act (RA) 9225, otherwise known as the “Citizenship Retention and Reacquisition Act of 2003;” issuance and revocation of all visas and permits; declaration of indigence or state of poverty of aliens subject to deportation; and legalization of residence in accordance with the law.

It also wants to clothe the Bureau with powers to cite offenders and punish them for contempt, in relation to the discharge of its quasi-judicial functions in accordance with the Rules of Court.

HB 214 proposes that the BI grant its employees additional benefits such as healthcare services through an accredited Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) for its regular workers, accident insurance policies for all employees, night-shift differential and overtime pay for actual work rendered.

It also proposes transportation benefits, dislocation allowance, hazard pay amounting to 25 percent of basic salary to qualified employees as may be determined by the BI Board and longevity pay based on guidelines to be issued by the Board and subject to the approval of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary.