By Genalyn Kabiling
There will be “no more human contact” whenever overseas Filipino workers (OFW) go through immigration checks in the country’s airports, President Duterte declared last Wednesday.
The President said he has ordered faster and hassle-free immigration processing for OFWs, citing the recent installation of self-service automated passport control gates at the Manila airport.
“Now the latest ngayon is when you go in, no more human contact. No more human contact. You just swipe your – in two minutes, i-swipe mo lang ‘yung ano mo, ‘yung visa mo, you’re out,” Duterte said during the awarding of outstanding overseas Filipino individuals and organizations in Malacañang Wednesday.
“Wala nang tanong-tanong [No questions asked]. No human contact at all. And that will be true and I am ordering it now. They have to make it faster pati ‘pag swipe, palabas for all OFW workers,” he said.
Duterte was referring to the Electronic Gate System (E-Gate) project of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) that aims to reduce long queues at the airport and hasten the movement of people arriving in the country.
Eighteen automatic border gates, which allow people to use their electronic passports to enter their country, have reportedly been installed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Cebu-Mactan, and Davao international airports.
Opening of bags banned
Apart from swift passport processing, the President said he has ordered airport authorities to refrain from opening the bags of Filipino workers.
“I don’t allow the opening of bags in the airport kung mag-uwi lalo na ‘yung mga mahihirap talaga. It pisses me no end,” he said.
He said he has also directed airport officials to protect overseas Filipino workers and other travelers from falling victim to “tanim-bala” or bullet planting scams at the airport. So far, he said, no such incident has been reported again.
“Sabihin ko, kung gusto ninyo well, sa inyo ‘yan but kakainin ninyo ‘pag nag umabot tayo. And since then I, wala na akong narinig. P****** i** papatayin ko talaga kayo, l**** kayo [I said, if that’s what you so be it but you will eat the bullet when we see each other. Since then, I have not heard of another incident. Son of a b*tch, I will really kill you],” he said.
“Madali man lang magpatay. Maingay lang ‘yang human rights, ‘yang y*** na ‘yan [It’s easy to kill. Human rights are just noisy],” he said.
Duterte said in appreciation of their hardships, the protection and promotion of the OFWs would remain as one this administration’s top priorities.
“This nation will always recognize your invaluable contribution to nation-building, and this administration will continue to craft policies and implement programs that will respond to your needs and protect your rights,” he said.
“All I ask is of you, our OFWs, to remain committed to your families as we work towards a more equitably progressive future for our country,” he added.
The country has been previously gripped by the “tanim-bala” scam where airport personnel allegedly plant bullets on unsuspecting passengers’ luggage. When passengers are apprehended, scammers allegedly demand money in exchange for their release.
The President has sought to end the scam by prohibiting airport and customs authorities from opening the bags of passengers. He said there was no need to re-check the bags after passing the airport security machines.
Duterte has threatened to relieve the erring airport authorities from their posts and assign them to guard the country’s southern backdoor from the entry of terrorists.