JUSTICE Secretary Vitaliano N. Aguirre II on Monday warned the continued resignation of Bureau of Immigration (BI) personnel, due to the removal of overtime pay, is putting national security at risk.
In an interview with reporters, Aguirre said 32 immigration personnel have already resigned, while 50 others have filed a leave of absence for six months to look for another job.
The discontinuance of overtime pay came after the signing of Republic Act 10924, or the General Appropriations Act (GAA) for fiscal year of 2017, which took effect on January 1.
The GAA vetoed the use of express-lane charges collected by the BI, which was intended for payment of salaries of casual and contractual personnel, confidential agents and job employees; augmentation of salaries of personnel who render services beyond office hours; and payment of health-insurance premium.
The funds collected from use of express lanes will now go to the national treasury.
Before the President issued the order last December, he said those manning the immigration lanes were getting as much as P48,000 a month in overtime pay.
Aguirre said with the help of Secretary Leoncio B. Evasco Jr. of the Office of the Cabinet Secretary, he is pushing for palliative measures to cushion the effect of the order.
He noted BI employees with Salary Grades 1 to 11 are receiving a measly salary of P14,000 a month.
Aguirre said he and Evasco would be appealing to President Duterte to bring back the previous setup for the express lanes, until the new immigration law is approved.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) chief said he tried to convince Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno to approve the temporary arrangement, but the latter declined.
Aguirre added he even issued a legal opinion the funds may be sourced out from airlines and shipping firms under Section 7-A of the Philippine Immigration Act.
The provision states that, “Immigration employees may be assigned by the commissioner of immigration to do overtime work at rates fixed by him when the service rendered is to be paid for by shipping companies and airlines or other persons served.”
Aguirre, however, said the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) expressed legal reservation over the position of the DOJ.
Aside from endangering the national security, the absence of many BI personnel has resulted in long queues at the BI counters, thus discouraging more tourists from coming into the country.
“This will also affect our economy, in general; that’s why we need to find an immediate solution,” Aguirre said.
The justice secretary said the DBM allotted P200 million to pay for the extra work rendered by the immigration officers, but the amount would only allow a maximum of P5,000 in overtime pay for each immigration personnel.