By William B. Depasupil, March 18, 2024; The Manila Times

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) and the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) have integrated their database systems to provide efficient and faster service to departing and arriving overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) while making it doubly hard for illegal and undocumented workers or victims of human trafficking.

Immigration Commissioner Norman Tansingco said over the weekend that the BI-CFO joint system agreement aims to provide a simplified and more efficient means of processing, collecting, verifying, and sharing information or data needed by both agencies.

The joint system seeks to address and eliminate illegal recruitment, human trafficking, and irregular migration incidents in the Philippines while generating accurate data on migration.

“Interoperability is an important part of modern governance,” said Tansingco. “The integration of our systems to share real-time data will provide streamlined and efficient services to the public,” he added.

He said BI officers have encountered several instances of fake CFO Guidance and Counseling Program (GCP) certificates presented during immigration inspections.

GCP is a required pre-departure seminar conducted by the CFO to equip Filipinos in intermarriages and bi-national relationships with adequate information on cultural and social realities overseas.

The certificates purport to show that holders have attended the GCP and, therefore, can leave for abroad.

Aside from the CFO, the BI has also linked up with the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW).

BI records show that the GCP certificate and the Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) from the DMW are the most common government certificates being faked by human trafficking syndicates.

Under the law, Filipinos who are leaving to permanently settle abroad are required to register with the CFO and obtain certificates that they attended the commission’s pre-departure orientation seminar or peer counseling sessions.

The OEC, on the other hand, is a requirement for departing OFWs and first-time migrants.

Tansingco said the joint system would allow immediate detection of fake CFO certificates and prevent future attempts of fraud.

“With the creation of the shared information system between the BI and the CFO, schemes like this will not be able to pass,” he said.