This is a rant post, usually posted before the year ends for the Department of Tourism, now it's the turn of Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Bureau of Immigration (BI).
Tutubi flew to Singapore recently via Philippine Airlines to attend a security seminar at a hotel on Orchard Road, Singapore's premier shopping strip.
This post details Tutubi's encounter with an immigration officer at NAIA Terminal 2 on December 10, 2012 at around 4am:
Tutubi arrived early before 4am for his 620am PAL flight. There was no queue yet at the NAIA Terminal 2 entrance gate. He went straight to pay the international travel tax (PhP1620.00) then waited just a few minutes to at the PAL check in counter. This was a breeze since he also doesn't have any check-in baggage, just his 40 liter backpack that's half-full (or half-empty :) then paid the airport terminal fee (PhP550.00, sometimes called airport tax or departure tax).
The next part was the irritating part where Tutubi queued at counter 6 of Immigration counter, and as he's using a new passport, he asked Tutubi for his old passport but he replied he lost his old one with several stamps of countries he's visited. The expressionless immigration officer asked where he's working, how long, where he's staying in Singapore, Tutubi answered them all, then the officer requested for his company ID to which he obliged.
The officer looked at his ID for about a minute then returned Tutubi's documents to him without stamping his passport and instead directed him to the "immigration police" at the back where some people are being questioned, calling someone or waiting for something instead of their flight.
The "immigration police" asked Tutubi the same set of questions earlier asked by the immigration officer to which he gave the same answers. Then the immigration police requested him to show more proof of his trip telling him he needs to show more so as to avoid writing a letter to the commissioner to request permission to leave (even if his flight is just two hours away very early in the morning, imagine the hassle of just trying to prove you're just going to be a tourist and you need to set an appointment with the commissioner) like the other people in the area were doing. He showed the telegraphic transfer of his company to the seminar organizer but the "immigration police" told him it indicated only his company name and purpose (of course it's under his company name), the "immigration police" asked for more information, it's good that he has the hotel confirmation in his name (together with his two office mates who went ahead two days before to explore Singapore) plus the company email trail in his iPhone. The "immigration police" asked him what other countries he's visited and for how long to which he replied: "Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand twice, India and Australia with three weeks the longest" and now brought his passport and immigration card back to counter six where a brief conversation with the immigration officer ensued.
Tutubi was called again by the immigration officer, sans a smile, sorry, nor apologetic tone for the "false positive," then even had the temerity to berate Tutubi with a grumbling tone but later stamped his passport.
Tutubi boarded his flight on schedule, the same Philippine Airlines flight with the whole Philippine Azkals team set to play (and lose) against the (now champion) Singapore Lions in the AFC
Now, this is the problem with the POEA Overseas Employment Administration, the OEC system needs an overhaul and also the people of the DFA, BI, and POEA seem to be conspiring to make life much harder for OFWs and tourists.
There are reminders at the airport not to harass immigration officers but first and foremost that should be displayed near the immigration counters is for immigration officers not to harass OFW/OCW, tourists and other visitors, after all, they're there to serve, not to make lives of other people miserable
to the Bureau of Immigration: if you can identify the immigration officer at NAIA terminal 2, December 10, 2012 at counter 6, he doesn't know how to smile even if there are many prominent signs at NAIA that says: We take the extra smile.
This tale of Tutubi is nothing compared to other OCW/OFW OEC woes and exit clearance processing nightmares. For sure there are gazillions more horror stories of legitimate tourists harassed by immigration officers out there. If an OFW has a very limited vacation time, at least one day will be spent just to request an OEC at POEA offices plus the expenses, additional worry and hassle for those just wishing to be home on a holiday. If Tutubi's an OFW, he'll just opt to pay travel tax and airport terminal fee just to get back the day spent to process/request the OEC at POEA, if it's possible even with just a waiver (at least consider this for stable countries instead of requiring companies to include a repatriation clause in employment contracts).
the original intent of the OEC is fine but there must be other ways to improve the process, but as always, most government officials don't really care to even take steps to improve it, even enjoy wielding "God-like" powers against overseas foreign workers and ordinary Filipinos whom they should be serving.
If you're an OFW or a tourist with your own woeful tale, please comment below and share to friends and contacts