House panel OK's bill to modernize Bureau of Immigration

The House of Representatives Committee on Justice has approved a consolidated bill, which bats for the modernization of the Bureau of Immigration (BI).

Seal of the Bureau of Immigration

The Committee on Justice convened on Wednesday, Aug. 24 to deliberate on six bills that sought to modernize the BI. The panel is chaired by Negros Occidental 4th district Rep. Juliet Ferrer.

BI modernization has been sought since the 14th Congress, but none of the attempts to pass the bill have succeeded.

The BI currently operates under the provisions of Commonwealth Act 613, which was passed in 1940–over 80 years ago, hence the call for the bureau’s modernization.

Under the measure, a Commission on Immigration and Naturalization will be established. It also mandates the creation of more Visa categories and immigration privileges for foreign investors in order to attract foreign investment.

It also seeks to impose harsh penalties for human trafficking as well as new guidelines in the handling refugees, stateless persons, and the granting of asylum.

The six consolidated House bills (HBs) were:

HB 127 authored by Ferrer, herself; HB 194 by Camiguin lone district Rep. Jurdin Romualdo; HB 274 by Camarines Sur 2nd district Rep. LRay Villafuerte, CamSur 5th district Rep. Miguel Villafuerta, Camsur 1st district Rep. Tsuyoshi Horibata, and Bicol Saro Party-list Rep. Nicolas Enciso; HB 1069 by Minority Leader and 4Ps Party-list Rep. Marcelino Libanan who formerly served as BI Commissioner; HB 2398 by Sorsogon 1st district Rep. Marie Escudero; and HB 3300 by Cagayan De Oro City 2nd district Rep. Rufus Rodriguez.

Rodriguez moved for the consolidated bills, a motion which saw no objections and was subsequently approved by Ferrer. Further, all solons present at the hearing were made co-authors of the measure.

Ferrer’s measure or HB 127 will serve as the primary bill, meaning that the consolidated bill will be based off of her legislation.

The consolidated bill is currently unnumbered.

The Ferrer bill is formally titled “An Act Modernizing The Bureau Of Immigration By Defining Its Powers And Functions, Further Professionalizing Its Organization, Upgrading The Compensation And Benefits Of Its Officials And Employees, And Appropriating Funds Therefor.”