Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ople Center seeks DFA action on harassment of 2 Filipino Tourists in Bali, Indonesia


The Blas F. Ople Policy Center, a non-profit organization that assists distressed overseas Filipinos, formally sought the help of the Department of Foreign Affairs in obtaining justice for two Filipino women who suffered rude and unfair treatment at the hands of Indonesian immigration agents at Bali, Indonesia.


“The Philippines and Indonesia share a deep and warm friendship. The unprofessional and unethical behavior of a few immigration agents in Bali towards Filipino tourists must immediately be corrected because it smacks of racial or ethnic profiling, something that is unexpected from a true friend like Indonesia,” former labor undersecretary Susan Ople, head of the Ople Center, stressed.

The two women who prefer to be anonymous went to Bali as tourists but were singled out from the immigration line and ushered into the immigration office where they were subjected to a bag and body search without justification.

One of the accosted women blogged about what transpired:

“We entered the holding room. There were 3 officers inside. 2 males and a lady officer. "Meet my Filipina friend. She was caught hiding packs of heroins in her luggage" said the officer. Sabay turo sa picture frames sa wall nila. It seemed like a gallery of drug traffickers from all over the world. He reminded me that DEATH is the PENALTY of those drug traffickers.”

The two women were offered something to drink but they refused. One of the male immigration officers then started asking questions.

"Do you know her?" asked the officer as he was pointing to the girl in the picture frame. - I answered no."Did you take drugs?" - Of course not!"Did you have drugs hidden in your body?" - What?! Never!"Let's check your bag".The officer searched my things thoroughly. I was just looking at him. He checked every compartment of my luggage too. After he messed with all my things and found nothing, I asked the officer what could be wrong and why was he checking us. He just answered, "because the 2 of you are beautiful girls."

In a nearby cubicle, an immigration lady officer asked the Filipino blogger’s friend to take off her clothes to make sure that she wasn’t bringing in any drugs.

The lady officer poked the Filipino woman’s belly apparently because previously arrested drug mules ingested the drugs prior to entering Indonesia.

In her letter to Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, OFW advocate Susan Ople wrote: “We firmly believe that there must be zero tolerance for any act no matter how isolated involving the racial profiling of Filipinos. In the case of (the two women), they are young, upright professionals who managed to save up for a visit to Bali, Indonesia. That they were singled out among several foreigners aboard the same flight and subjected to a bag and body search without justification or provocation merits our own government’s serious attention and concern.”

Finally, after one and a half hours at the immigration office, the two Filipino tourists were allowed to leave the airport. Extremely tired and traumatized, the two women were grateful and surprised to see the hotel driver still waiting for them.

The blogger wrote –

“We met the hotel driver who's been waiting for us since 11:40PM. We finally went out of the airport at 1:30AM. I thanked the driver for waiting for us. He wasn't surprised that we were the last to go out. Sabi nya, kapag Pinoy chinecheck daw muna.” 
The two women assured the Ople Center that they are willing to file a formal complaint with the Department of Foreign Affairs if needed, to ensure that no other Filipino tourist suffers the same rude and humiliating treatment by Indonesian immigration agents.

“We await the response of the DFA to our letter for appropriate action on behalf of these two aggrieved women,” Ople said.