Senators welcome suspension of revised travel rules, but hearing to continue
MANILA, Philippines — Senators on Thursday welcomed the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) move to suspend the revised travel guidelines for Filipinos traveling abroad but clarified that the hearing involving the controversial guidelines will still push through.
In a press conference, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri expressed his appreciation of the DOJ for its decision to suspend the implementation of the revised travel guidelines, reiterating that every Filipino has the right to travel under the 1984 Constitution.
According to Zubiri, the revised guidelines were too “prohibitive,” citing one example where an affidavit authorized by a consular office must be obtained whenever a Filipino visits a relative overseas.
“That, for me, is a prohibitive requirement, aside from bringing your original birth certificate,” said Zubiri.
Zubiri said if the DOJ did not suspend the implementation of the guidelines, the Senate would have filed a petition for a temporary restraining order before the Supreme Court.
However, the Senate President clarified that the hearing on the revised guidelines would continue despite the suspension.
“In the absence of law, we want to ask them their basis for these added requirements for Filipinos traveling abroad,” said Zubiri.
Zubiri also pointed out that in 2022, 32,000 passengers were offloaded by the Bureau of Immigration. Only 1.4 percent of this number were found to have been victims of human trafficking.
“Ibig sabihin ‘yung 98.5 percent ay biktima hindi ng human traffic kundi sa pang-aabuso ng isang ahensya,” said Zubiri.
(It means that 98.5 percent are victims not of human trafficking but of abuse by an agency.)
He also warned how these requirements may lead to added layers of corruption.
Zubiri then urged concerned agencies to focus on human traffickers, not traveling Filipinos, imploring them to develop a “more concrete formula” to apprehend traffickers.
Meanwhile, in a statement, Senate Majority leader Joel Villanueva also welcomed the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (Iacat), headed by the DOJ, for the suspension of the travel guidelines’ implementation.
However, Villanueva insisted that the revised guidelines were “unreasonable, prone to abuse, and misplaced,” adding that he looks forward to having a dialogue with the Iacat and DOJ to resolve the issue and find better solutions against human trafficking.
“The government should not put the burden on our kababayans but instead strengthen their programs against trafficking,” Villanueva said.
Senator Grace Poe also lauded the suspension, saying it averted “what could have been a chaotic situation at our airports with the possible flight misses and boarding delays due to the cumbersome requirements.”
“We are one in our goal to give ease and security to legitimate travelers while making it hard for wrongdoers to victimize the public,” said Poe in a separate statement.