Amid complaints of theft, BI says detained foreigners’ belongings properly accounted for
MANILA, Philippines — The Bureau of Immigration (BI) has given an assurance that gadgets and cash confiscated from detained foreigners would be returned to their owners as they are deported out of the country.
BI Spokesperson Dana Mengote Sandoval on Thursday said the items recovered inside the bureau’s detention facility for undesirable foreigners at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City last January 23 were adequately accounted for and kept by authorities.
“Lahat naman po ng kinuha was accounted for and properly naka-safekeep po siya, and naka-account lahat (Everything was accounted for and stored for safekeeping). Those things would be returned to them,” Sandoval said in a phone interview.
“It’s still their property,” she added.
This assurance comes after an anonymous source close to the detainees revealed to INQUIRER.net that BI officials had seized not only deadly weapons and gadgets but money as well.
“The last time the police conducted a raid there, they said only gadgets and knives were confiscated. There is nothing in the news that says they also seized money from foreigners,” the source said in Filipino.
“Also, the registered gadgets from foreigners were not returned. Nobody knows na where they can get it,” he added.
News reports about the raid, led by BI’s Intelligence Division in coordination with the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Regional Special Operations Unit, did not mention anything about authorities confiscating cash from the detainees.
The Bureau only said the items seized were mobile phones, portable air conditioning units, pocket Wi-Fi devices, sharp and pointed tools, knives, steel tubes, scissors, laptops, DVD players, decks of cards, and lighters.
Sandoval, however, confirmed during the interview that money was also seized but they would be returned to their owners. She also reiterated that the items confiscated were not allowed inside the facility under BI’s rules.
“Actually, the rules state that those items are prohibited inside the facility. I would have to check with the warden how much money they can keep inside the facility,” she said in Filipino.
The source showed INQUIRER.net a copy of a memorandum signed by former BI Warden Facility (BIWF) Acting Chief Edward Mabborang dated June 26, 2018, allowing foreign detainees to use cellphones between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. from Thursday to Wednesday of the following week.
Meanwhile, laptops can be used every day from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., according to the memo.
But Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said in a statement a day after the raid that this rule was part of the policy of past BI administrations that was lenient on foreigners.
“Past administrations used to be lenient in allowing the detainees to use gadgets because the BIWF is a detention facility for those to be deported and not a jail. But seeing dangerous weapons confiscated here prompts us to add stricter security measures,” Morente said.
According to INQUIRER.net’s source, who claims to have witnessed the raid, Chinese and Korean nationals are in control of the facility.
“Chinese and Koreans run the place. They pay everyone including the warden and the guards, harap harapan pa. I just can’t take videos and photos because phones are not allowed inside,” he explained. “Clearly, ang ginawa ng immigration is stealing.
Sandoval said these issues — if they really exist — will be addressed by Warden Niño Oliver Dato, who has been in charge of the detention cells for less than a month.
“Actually po bago ‘yong warden natin, nag-iimplement po siya ng mga changes (Actually, our warden is new. He is implementing changes). He’s still learning the ins and outs of the system, pero isa sa mga iniimplement niya is stricter guarding no’ng facility natin (one of the changes he is implementing is stricter guarding of the facility),” she said.
“So if there are any, parang crooks or mga ganyan na going on, definitely mabubuwag ‘yan (So if there are crooks there, those groups would be dismantled),” she added.
The BI spokesperson also insisted that despite the crackdown on contrabands, there are no abuses committed against foreigners.
“We’re making sure po na everyone is kept safe, and itong mga paraphernalia na ito, mga dangerous na weapon na ito ay hindi magagamit (We’re making sure that everyone is safe and these paraphernalia and dangerous weapons cannot be used),” Sandoval noted.
There is no assurance whether foreigners would be given the green light to use cellphones and laptops again.
“That would have to be studied,” Sandoval said. /ee
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