BI probes 'unauthorized' release of 22 arrested Chinese workers

MANILA, Philippines – Immigration Chief Siegfred Mison has ordered an investigation into the "unauthorized" release of 22 Chinese nationals who had been arrested for not having work permits.

On July 21, the Bureau of Immigration nabbed 191 foreign nationals working as call center agents or online gambling operators in a Pasay City office, but only 169 were brought for inquest at the BI office in Manila.

"This matter is taken very seriously by the Commissioner. He has ordered the concerned officers to submit a written explanation on the discrepancies in the number of apprehended subjects," BI spokesperson Elaine Tan said on Tuesday, July 28.

Of the 169 mostly Chinese workers brought to the BI main office, 155 faced deportation charges for violation of Section 37(a)(7) of the Philippine Immigration Act. The other 14 were released without charges, as they managed to present valid work visas.

However, from the time of the apprehension until before the inquest proceedings, 22 were released from state custody for invalid reasons.

The 21 Chinese workers reportedly have Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) special visas, while another one is unaccounted for.

Tan explained that a CEZA visa "does not automatically absolve the holder of any liability under immigration laws."

"CEZA visas are company- and station-specific," she explained. "The company and the place of work must still be established in order to validate that the visa is legitimately used.”

A concerned individual had tipped off the alleged illegal operation in Pasay, said Tan. Subsequent monitoring and surveillance confirmed the initial information, she added. 

All 155 foreigners undergoing deportation proceedings failed to present their  work permits.

They are temporarily held in two separate BI facilities in Bicutan and Clark Freeport, Pampanga, as they await a BI resolution on their deportation. –