Philippines no safe haven, troublemakers warned

The visas of 48,782 foreigners, with 1,424 already ordered to leave the country, had been canceled, according to BI.

The Philippines had been welcoming to foreign tourists in 2022, but not to fugitives and unsavory characters from abroad, including sex offenders, fraudsters and members of criminal syndicates.

The same open arms for legitimate tourists and the mailed-fist treatment for undesirable aliens are expected to continue in 2023 as the country tries to bounce back from the Covid-19 pandemic.

With the Bureau of Immigration and the National Bureau of Investigation collaborating, the country arrested 372 illegal aliens found to be involved in unauthorized online gaming operations.

On top of that number, the visas of 48,782 foreigners, with 1,424 already ordered to leave the country, had been canceled, according to BI.

The BI added that the move to weed out illegal online gaming operators was done in coordination with the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation.

BI Commissioner Norman Tansingco said that for 2023 and the years ahead, the bureau would “anticipate, innovate and motivate.”

“These are the agency’s direction in the next years,” Tansingco said. “Anticipate what is needed, innovate to improve our services, and motivate each other to be the best public servants.”

Tansingco stressed the BI would continue to screen out troublemakers.

“We celebrate a new beginning for the bureau. Despite the many issues and challenges in the past, we look forward to a better future,” Tansingco said.

Among the notable arrests conducted with the help of BI last year was that of South Korea’s Lee Won Ho, tagged by Interpol as the head of a telecom scam syndicate victimizing Koreans.

China’s Fu Qihao was also nabbed and sent back to China to face pyramiding charges. Last October, a scammer from Ghana masquerading as a missionary in the Philippines was collared for his involvement in automated teller machine hackings in the country.

In what should further improve the country’s international standing in the prevention of human trafficking, John Crotty, a 64-year-old British convicted of sex crimes was arrested.

Inside the BI’s warden facility, bureau personnel stopped several attempts during the year to smuggle shabu into the detention center, including incidents in September and October, with all cases leading to charges being filed against the foreigners involved.

Also in September, American Joseph Shuhar was intercepted in a joint effort by the BI, the Bureau of Customs and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency as he tried to sneak into the country P19 million of cocaine.

Efforts against human trafficking invariably involved rescuing Filipinos being lured by syndicates to illegally work abroad, including in Thailand, Laos and Dubai.

BI airport officers in November also uncovered trafficking attempts that involved the use of fake airport passes and unauthorized passage through airport employees’ entrances.

Tansingco said the BI has established a 24/7 one-stop-shop at the NAIA catering to foreign passengers who urgently need immigration documents.

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