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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, December 12, 2014
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with Rolly Espina

Contradicting Immigration Laws

Rolly EspinaWhat is it with our immigration laws? I think some of the rules and regulations they have must be reviewed and, if needed amended, to make them  less complicated, not only for our visitors but our residents themselves.

The other day, my daughter Mate and her son Giancarlo, departed for Manila early to be able to catch their flight to the United States where they intended to spend the holidays.

Unfortunately, at the gates of the NAIA 1, right after they were checked-in, paid all the necessary fees from travel tax to airport tax, my grandson, Giancarlo was stopped and his departure deferred pending action from immigration authorities.

Giancarlo is a holder of an Italian passport, having acquired that citizenship by birth but is also a Filipino citizen having been issued an NSO birth certificate before he turned 21-years old after he processed his recognition as half-Filipino.

After almost two years of processing the documents, he was issued a birth certificate and my daughter thought that was enough – after all, what document is more legal than a birth certificate to show proof of your citizenship.

Unfortunately, however, that was not enough for the Immigration official who told my grandson that the only recognized document they want and listed in their book is a Filipino passport.

Of course both my daughter and grandson reasoned out that isn’t a birth certificate more vital and valid than a passport since you obviously need one to be able to apply for the latter.

But nope, as Immigration supervisor, Lina Mamatin said, “We follow the book and it says, only an alien card or a Philippine passport is the recognized document” under the memo they were issued.

As far as the Immigration is concerned, my grandson is an illegal alien in the Philippines with his last entry listed 2012 and thus, has to pay the corresponding penalties and fees for overstaying even though he has with him his Philippine-issued birth certificate as proof of his dual citizenship.

My desperate daughter went so far as pleading with them to deport my grandson with an idea to have him apply for a passport at the Los Angeles consulate while they are there, which by the way, gets done faster than if we apply here in our own country.

However, the deportation matter needs to be processed as well and since it was very early in the morning, there is no legal officer on hand to handle such matters, they were told. They were also told that even though their documents were processed by the DFA, they are of a different department and have nothing to do with Immigration.

My daughter also offered to pay whatever fees for overstaying they claimed but that too was denied under the explanation that if an alien overstayed for more than a year, processing of clearance has to be done at the main immigration office.

With no solutions on hand, my grandson offered to stay behind and let his mom travel alone, which of course also delayed their flight since they had to unload his luggage.

Of course, I could not help but blame my daughter, Mate’, for not inquiring and making sure their papers are in order before they left. But Mate said it was not like this is his first time to travel. It’s just more complicated now that he also has acknowledged he is half-Filipino.

I am baffled as well by how the Immigration is implementing such laws and I also understand why my daughter did not pursue applying for a Philippine passport for her son since between that and using an Italian passport, the latter will bring you to places without a visa.

Which is why they used it because, just like the first time he went to the US, with an Italian passport, Giancarlo only applies for a visa waiver.

Perhaps the most ironic about this is Giancarlo is probably more Filipino than most of those who applied for dual citizenship. He grew up here, went to school here and made his home here. Now that he is a full-fledged Filipino through an NSO certified birth certificate, the Immigration does not want to recognize this.

Oh well, I hope the Immigration will review this very confusing and contradictory provision which I understand was authored by Senate President Franklin Drilon, especially now that we too, here in Bacolod-Silay Airport, will soon have an Immigration desk.*

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