Press Release
March 6, 2011


The head of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) must be axed for mishandling the deportation of 14 Taiwanese nationals allegedly involved in an international fraud, which has placed the country's economic and diplomatic relationship with Taiwan in jeopardy.

Senator Chiz Escudero said BI officer-in-charge Ronaldo Ledesma should resign and be immediately replaced for failing in his duties and misleading authorities, including President Benigno Aquino III.

"I have reasons to believe that Commissioner Ledesma did not give the full factual account surrounding the deportation proceedings of the 14 Taiwanese. Some facts provided by the BI were either embellished or neglected," Escudero said.

The senator said he also has reasons to believe that the Department of Justice might have also misinformed the president based on the wanting report submitted by the BI to the department.

Escudero, who heads the Senate committee on justice and human rights, said there was a clear absence of due process and violation of Philippine laws with the way the issue was handled.

The senator said there were valid documents to show that the Taiwanese nationals were documented, contrary to the BI's claim that they entered the country without passports and visas.

"The BI knew based on their own arrival data that the 14 suspects were Taiwanese nationals. They were duly received and cleared by our own immigration based on the travel documents they presented when they entered the country, debunking the claim of BI" Escudero said.

When the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) endorsed the suspects to the BI after their arrests on December 27, the purpose was only to verify their immigration status and criminal records if any, and not for deportation proceeding.

The NBI report showed that they were surprised when a deportation order and proceeding was effected by the BI without duly notifying them as the arresting authority.

Under the Philippine Immigration Act's deportation rules and procedures, no deportation can be effected without securing clearances from the court, prosecutor's office, the NBI and the Philippine National Police.

Escudero said there were clear indications that the BI bulldozed their way into issuing and executing a summary deportation order (SDO).

Aside from the lack and absence of a hearing prior to the issuance of the SDO in compliance with due process, the suspect's counsel was not notified of the order.

The senator said if the 14 were indeed undesirable aliens, they should have been accorded the right to due process surrounding their deportationproceedings.

"The loopholes are just too many for the BI to justify their mess. Under section 28 of the Philippine Immigration Act, an alien ordered deported shall be removed a) to the country where he came from, b) to the foreign port at which he embarked for the Philippines c) to the country of his nativity, and d) to the country in which he resided prior to coming to the Philippines," Escudero said.

Escudero is deeply concerned that the sweeping decision of the BI has undermined the country's judicial system when it clearly ignored the writ of habeas corpus issued by the Court of Appeals on January 31, 2011.

In the early morning of February 2, the 14 Taiwanese were deported to mainland China even when Taiwanese officials and their lawyers showed the writ to the immigration officials in NAIA.

"This move is in total violation of our laws. If we are the first ones to grossly ignore our own constitutional provisions, how then can we expect foreigners to abide by our laws once they are here in the country? We don't want the same thing to happen to our own nationals," Escudero said.

In the BI's position paper on the matter, it argued that they proceeded with the deportation procedure despite the writ since said the order's objective was only to determine whether the detention of the suspects was valid or lawful. In the absence of a temporary restraining order from the court, they claimed the proceedings had to continue and logically follow the process under the law and jurisprudence.

The DOJ has already scheduled a preliminary investigation of the said case for the third week of February.

"It is not for the BI to state whether the detention was legal or illegal, it is solely the court's decision and should have been raised precisely before the courts," the senator pointed out.

The DOJ last week issued a resolution finding no probable cause to indict the 10 Chinese and 14 Taiwanese nationals.

Based on these legal blunders, Escudero said Ledesma could no longer hold the fort of the bureau as he already lost his ascendancy in judiciously deciding on the matter.

"We cannot afford a single entity to jeopardize our own judicial rules and processes, not to mention the risk he posed to hundreds of thousands OFWs earning their living in Taiwan," Escudero said. "We want to prove that constitutional guarantees and judicial processes are duly implemented in our country and at the same time hope that we can mend our economic times with Taiwan," Escudero said.

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