BI officers in hot water for barring travel of 5 menBy Maila Ager
In a letter-complaint filed before the Department of Justice dated August 28, Pia Castro, reporter and acting executive producer of Intercontinental Broadcasting Corporation (IBC-13) news department, demanded an explanation from the Bureau of Immigration why her five employees were prevented from leaving the country last August 27.
Castro is also a proprietor of Locaovercola, which works exclusively with Coca-Cola Bottlers Philippines. She identified the five as Sunday Roco, Jerry Medenilla, Christian Motol, Rey Carmen, and her half-brother, Angelo Quito.
She said the five were scheduled to depart for Hong Kong via Cebu Pacific at 5:40 a.m. Monday when they were stopped and held for questioning at the immigration office for nearly eight hours.
“Complete with all the documents needed for their travel including round-trip air tickets and itinerary signed by the travel agency, my employees were barred from leaving the country based merely on unfounded suspicion that they will work in Hong Kong as illegal aliens,” Castro wrote in her letter to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
“My employees were held at the immigration for questioning by a certain Miss Mary Jane Hizon for over eight hours,” she said.
Initially, Castro said, Hizon allegedly indicated to her employees that the travel agency that managed their trip has a record of human trafficking, supposedly sending so-called tourists to Qatar.
But when she called the travel agency, Castro said it immediately denied the accusation, saying it was baseless.
Castro claimed that her employees were not properly assisted by the immigration officers, who she said only became “accommodating” after learning that she works for a television network.
“Miss Hizon belatedly processed them and became suddenly accommodating. She even advised my employees not to get a flight in Clark because immigration officers there are more difficult to deal with,” she said in the letter.
The passengers were eventually allowed to travel but only after the following day. And Castro had to buy new tickets for them, which cost a total of P28,000.
“I am extremely disappointed with the way things were handled. I am extremely angry at the way my employees were shabbily treated by Miss Hizon and the immigration officers,” Castro said.
“The incident has not only caused unnecessary additional expenses and inconvenience on my part, but most importantly it has caused psychological trauma to my employees,” she added.
Castro then urged an investigation into the matter.
INQUIRER.net tried to get Hizon’s side but was told over the phone by a certain “Mark” from the immigration’s department office that she was already out of office.
Mark also refused to give his last name, saying it was the policy of the office not to give other information except for their first name.
His officemate, Beth Almaja, also initially refused to give her last name and only gave it after this reporter pressed for explanation why they could not give their last name even for reference.
INQUIRER.net also tried to get the side of Immigration Commissioner Ricardo David Jr but he has not answered texts and calls as of posting time.
It was Immigration spokesperson Maria Antonette Mangrobang who only answered a text message when sought to comment on the matter.
As a matter of procedure, Mangrobang said the bureau would direct the named officer in the complaint to explain.
“An investigation would likewise be undertaken to determine if the IO (immigration officer) had a basis to deny (the departure of the passengers),’ she added.