BI officer who allegedly asked for yearbook from passenger in viral Tiktok video relieved from post

Bureau of Immigration spokesperson Dana Sandoval said on Tuesday that the immigration officer who allegedly asked a passenger to show her yearbook has been relieved from his post.

“Because of this incident, he has been relieved from his post. So he has been reassigned to a back-end office as a result of this incident,” Sandoval said in an interview on CNN Philippines.

Earlier, Freelance writer Cham Tanteras went viral on social media after revealing that she failed to catch her flight to Israel in December 2022 due to a lengthy interview at the immigration counter.

Sandoval, in the same interview, had denied asking for a yearbook.

“When the officer described the incident, he described it as just a regular secondary inspection, similar to what he does every day,” she said.

“Wherein he might not have been able to explain properly to the passenger what just happened and why were additional questions being asked, why was she undergoing secondary inspection. That’s why there was a misunderstanding on what was happening,” she said.

The BI spokesperson added that the BI does not require travelers to present their yearbooks, graduation photos and diplomas before they proceed with their overseas flight.

Sandoval bared it is also not normal for passengers to be asked about the marital status of their parents.

“It is not a normal question to ask, especially since the passenger is an adult already. So there’s no real relationship — the question really has no relationship with the purpose of the travel or with the details of her travel,” she said.

“So this is also one of the things that we are looking into as to why these questions have been asked by the Immigration officer when in fact they do not have any bearing on the circumstances of the travel.”

Meanwhile, Sandoval said the agency also has a memorandum prohibiting immigration officers from retrieving the mobile phones or gadgets of passengers without consent.

“But without their consent, if they are refusing to show these e-documents… then our officers are not allowed to get these from the passenger,” she said.

The BI spokesperson further explained that passengers undergo secondary inspection when they feel that there is “something off” with the passengers’ documentation, statements, and demeanor.

“So if there is something off or there is a disconnect among the three things… then this is considered a red flag,” she said.

Likewise, Sandoval said any immigration officer who is remiss of his or her duties will face administrative sanctions.

“And if our Immigration officer was found to be remiss of his duty or, in fact, any Immigration officer if they are found to be remiss of their duties then definitely they will face administrative sanctions based on existing policies of the Bureau,” she said.

Meanwhile, Tanteras has already filed an email complaint to the BI however except for the notice of receipt of the email, the agency has yet to respond as of this posting.

“Aside from the financial damages, I’m seeking accountability because I’m trying to avoid this to happen again in the future. I know the story could just erase what happened in the past. It already happened. I already flew. I went to the trip. I already went back. It’s done. But what happens now? What happens to the future travellers? That’s why I’m asking accountability in their actions,” she said in the CNN Philippines interview.