PORT FOLIO Column: Ramon Cuyco Column
PORT FOLIO

A HALFWAY HOUSE FOR ALIENS TO DECONGEST BICUTAN

Nov 1, 2022, 12:35 AM
Ramon Cuyco

Ramon Cuyco

Columnist

THE new leadership of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) is eyeing a holistic approach to decongest the agency’s detention facility in Camp Bagong Diwa, Lower Bicutan in Taguig City.

This Bicutan facility is called many names—a “jail,” “warden facility,” “detention center.” But the 2015 Rules of Procedure calls it as BI Warden Facility (BIWF), managed by a Warden.

It houses detained aliens awaiting deportation. The alien’s detention in that Facility is an offshoot of the Immigration bureau’s mandate to administer and enforce immigration, and alien admission laws, in keeping with the right of every state to “the integrity of its territory and exclusive and peaceful possession of its dominions which it may guard and defend by all possible means against any attack.”

The Philippines as “a sovereign power has the inherent power to exclude aliens from its territory as it may deem proper for the public interest. Such power is based on the accepted maxim of international law that every sovereign nation has the inherent power essential to self-preservation, to forbid entrance of foreigners within its dominions.

Hence, the BIWF is an essential adjunct of BI’s mandate. Unfortunately, the facility’s absorptive capacity is suspect. For years, it became notorious for its squalid and appalling conditions. Against the yardstick of humanitarian standards, the facility and its processes will fail.

On December 17, 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Nelson Mandela Rules, which sets the standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners.

The rules are based on an obligation to treat all prisoners with respect for their inherent dignity and value as human beings, and to prohibit torture and other forms of ill-treatment.

That said, is the BI’s Warden Facility a jail in the manner used in our criminal justice system and are the detainees therein supposed to be treated as prisoners as defined in the Nelson Mandela Rules.

Essentially, foreign migrants may be held in custody of the BI, as incident of exclusion, or as incident of deportation.

Currently, aliens held in custody as incident of exclusion are restricted in the airlines’ holding area at the ports of entry. While those undergoing deportation proceedings are committed to the Bicutan facility.

The issue of the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO) with the Department of Justice declaring the deportation of around 40,000 overstaying aliens and most of them in the gaming industry will put enormous stress on the limited capacity (designed to hold only 200 persons) of the BIWF.

Managing BIWF to a decent level won’t be attainable without intervention.

If the new leadership of the BI is to rebrand the Bicutan facility, it must temper its “office of sovereignty” image with the “imperatives of humanitarian precepts.”

This Foreign Migrants Halfway House idea is well timed.


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