Friday, November 03, 2006

Luli clarifies NAIA incident

Metro (as of 3:01 AM)
Luli clarifies NAIA incident

By AUREA CALICA

The Philippine Star 11/03/2006

HONG KONG – Presidential daughter Evangeline Lourdes "Luli" Arroyo
clarified Thursday that the violation in immigration procedures – not
the shabby treatment of her – was the root of the confrontation she
had with an immigration officer at the Ninoy Aquino International
Airport (NAIA) on Tuesday, which prompted officials to relieve the
officer while an investigation is being conducted.

"It's not who I am, but the procedure should have been followed," she
said in an interview with government television station NBN Channel 4.
Apparently, Padlan did not recognize the presidential daughter, who
fell in line instead of asking for VIP treatment at the airport every
time she leaves for a trip.

She clarified that immigration examiner Edgardo Padlan was not
relieved from his post because he scolded her at the immigration area
and shouted at her to fall in line. The real offense was that Padlan
allowed a foreigner to cut into the line and even allowed him to enter
his immigration booth, which are clearly against immigration rules.

In a letter to The STAR, Arroyo said the immigration officer did get
mad at her, supposedly for coming through immigration so close to her
flight departure, but she protested and said that she did not deserve
to be scolded because she stood patiently in line along with her
sister-in-law and three-year-old niece while a foreigner was allowed
to get ahead of other people in the line.

Arroyo said at first she only asked Padlan why he allowed the foreign
tourist — a Korean — to cut the line and pointed out to the
immigration officer that it was wrong for anybody to enter the booth.
She noted that it might give the impression that some people can get
special treatment in exchange for a bribe.

She said she also wondered why the Korean was permitted to get ahead
of everyone else when he was in shorts and shirt, contrary to the
claim of the immigration officer that the man was a supervisor or a
VIP and was already delayed for his flight.

Arroyo said Padlan just dismissed her arguments even as she explained
to him that he should not have allowed the foreigner to cut the line
because other passengers were inconvenienced, including her
sister-in-law, Kakai, who is pregnant.

But Padlan reportedly just asked her to go back to the line. He also
started to raise his voice but another immigration agent prodded him
to just process Arroyo's passport.

It was only when he opened her passport that he realized he had argued
with the daughter of President Arroyo.

Ferdinand Sampol, head supervisor at the Bureau of Immigration at
NAIA, said that Arroyo raised the complaint to immigration
supervisor-on-duty Asuncion Palma-Gil.

Padlan apologized but the next thing he knew, he was relieved from his
post at NAIA and recalled to the Bureau of Immigration head office in
Intramuros while an investigation is ongoing.

The officer's family is asking that he be forgiven and allowed to go
back to work.

"I am not angry but it's not up to me. There is already an
investigation," Arroyo said, when asked about her reaction to the
family's call.

Arroyo and her sister-in-law followed the rest of their family members
here for a brief holiday.

Charges filed

Administrative charges were filed against Padlan while Immigration
Commissioner Alipio Fernandez Jr. ordered further investigation into
the incident.

Fernandez said they would determine whether Padlan should be
sanctioned for supposedly violating separate directives on immigration
officers at NAIA against displaying discourteous behavior and giving
preferential treatment to passengers.

In a memorandum issued Thursday, Fernandez ordered Padlan to explain
within 72 hours why he should not be penalized for the incident.

Fernandez stressed that he could be suspended for six months to one
year if found guilty of the charges.

Padlan, however, has no history of complaints from passengers
throughout his decades of service to the Bureau of Immigration at
NAIA, according to Sampol.

The immigration chief reiterated his order to all immigration officers
to be courteous to everyone, whether they are VIPs or ordinary
travelers. He reminded them that there is an existing memorandum
prohibiting immigration officers at NAIA to facilitate special
processing of passengers unless there are government dignitaries,
members of the diplomatic corps, senators and congressmen, Cabinet
members, members of the judiciary and handicapped passengers.

Request for VIP treatment is usually coursed through the NAIA Public
Affairs Office or the Airport Immigration Office.

Models of good behavior

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita called on other Filipinos to follow
Arroyo's lead in taking action on abusive and discourteous government
officials and personnel.

"Even if one is not a daughter of the President, one can make
observations on actions of public servants," Ermita said, adding that
Arroyo would have likely done the same thing even if she were an
ordinary citizen.

He denied comments that the action against Padlan was taken only
because the incident was reported by the daughter of the President.

He said there were many instances when complaints from the public were
acted upon immediately.

Meanwhile, while the presidential daughter would not ask for VIP
treatment, four Philippine officials tried to cut the line of mostly
Filipino passengers flying here from Nanning, China on Wednesday
morning.

Media people from the Philippines covering the presidential visit
proceeded here as Mrs. Arroyo agreed to a pool interview at 3 p.m.
Wednesday.

Reporters who had lined up early complained to the airline staff that
the flight would be delayed if they would keep on allowing people who
just came in to cut the line and check in first.

Two of the officials were identified as Fe Agoncillo Reyes and Celeste
Ilagan of the Department of Trade and Industry. The names of the two
male companions were not immediately known.

One of the male officials remarked: "Kahit anong gawin niyo, gagawin
pa rin nila ang gusto nila (Whatever you do you, they will still do
what they want)." He was referring to the Chinese support staff that
were giving the Filipino officials VIP treatment.

In the end, the flight was delayed and reporters missed half the time
allotted for them to interview the President.

Mrs. Arroyo turned out to have already granted a round-table interview
with media based here earlier in the day and some of her interviews
already came out in the wire services.

Trade Secretary Peter Favila vowed to look into the incident. He said
while he understood Chinese courtesy for government officials, he
would not have allowed the process to be disregarded and inconvenience
other passengers.

He said if the male official was from the DTI, "I promise you, he's out."

"I will not tolerate such kind of an attitude," Favila said, adding
that a government official should be a model of good behavior. — With
Edu Punay, Paolo Romero, Rainier Allan Ronda

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