2 Filipina tourists decry ‘welcome’ at Bali airport
If you are a Filipino woman hoping to have a nice vacation in Bali, be careful.
Two Filipino tourists, one of them a blogger, suffered “rude and unfair” treatment “akin to racial profiling” at the hands of immigration officers in Bali, Indonesia, recently, a nonprofit organization said yesterday.
The Blas F. Ople Policy Center, which assists distressed overseas Filipinos workers, sought the help of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in “obtaining justice” for the two Filipino women who were interrogated and bodily searched at the Bali airport.
“The Philippines and Indonesia share a deep and warm friendship. The unprofessional and unethical behavior of a few immigration agents in Bali towards Filipino tourists must immediately be corrected because it smacks of racial or ethnic profiling, something that is unexpected of a true friend like Indonesia,” said former Labor Undersecretary Susan Ople, head of the Ople Center.
Ople said the two women, who preferred to remain anonymous, went to Bali as tourists. But in the immigration line, they were singled out and ushered into the immigration office where they were subjected to a bag and body search “without justification.”
“Meet my Filipina friend. She was caught hiding packs of heroin in her luggage,” one of three immigration officers reportedly told the two women while pointing to pictures of arrested drug traffickers inside the immigration holding room.
Ople said the two women were offered something to drink but they refused and then another immigration officer started asking questions.
“Do you know her? Do you take drugs? Do you have drugs hidden in your body?” the second officer asked them.
When the Filipino blogger vehemently denied knowing the woman in the picture or having drugs in her luggage, the immigration officer proceeded to check her bag, Ople said.
“The officer searched my things thoroughly. I was just looking at him. He checked every compartment of my luggage too,” Ople quoted the tourist as saying.
“After he messed with all my things and found nothing, I asked the officer what was wrong and why he was checking us. He just answered, ‘because the two of you are beautiful girls,’” the blogger added.
In a cubicle in the office, a woman immigration officer told the blogger’s companion to undress.
Ople said the woman officer poked the Filipino woman’s abdomen to check if she had ingested illegal drugs.
“We firmly believe there must be zero tolerance for any act no matter how isolated involving the racial profiling of Filipinos,” Ople said in a letter to Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario.
“In the case of (the two women), they are young, upright professionals who managed to save up for a visit to Bali,” she said.
She said the two Filipinos were finally allowed to leave the airport after one and a half hours of questioning and examination.
“Extremely tired and traumatized, the two were grateful and surprised to see the hotel driver still waiting for them,” Ople said.
“We met the hotel driver who’d been waiting for us since 11:40 p.m. We finally left the airport at 1:30 a.m. I thanked the driver for waiting for us. He wasn’t surprised that we were the last to get out. He told us that in the case of Filipinos, they are thoroughly examined,” Ople quoted the blogger as saying.
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