Council to hold executive session on foreign nationals’ activities

The Iloilo City Council, presided by Vice Mayor Jeffrey P. Ganzon, conducts a Committee of the Whole hearing on July 8 at the SP Session Hall to investigate illegal activities by foreign nationals, as per Resolution No. 2024-567.

By Mariela Angella Oladive

The Iloilo City Council is set to determine the schedule for a second hearing to discuss sensitive information regarding the investigation into the presence of foreign nationals engaged in illegal activities in the city.

The decision follows an initial committee hearing led by the Committee of the Whole on July 8, which left several questions unanswered.

The hearing, presided over by Vice Mayor Jeffrey P. Ganzon, was initiated following reports of illegal activities such as gambling, human trafficking, and cyber scams allegedly conducted by foreign nationals in the city.

Formed under Resolution No. 2024-567, the committee aims to examine these activities and develop necessary legislative or policy recommendations.

However, Councilor Romel Duron, the author of the resolution, expressed dissatisfaction with the responses from resource persons invited to the hearing.

He noted that some details could not be disclosed publicly, necessitating a private discussion.

Duron was particularly unconvinced by the Bureau of Immigration’s (BI) stance that they need complaints or information before initiating investigations.

The Bureau of Immigration said their investigations are contingent on receiving formal complaints.

Reynaldo Laguardia Jr., head of the Regional Intelligence Operating Unit of BI-Iloilo, clarified that they require references or endorsements from concerned government agencies before conducting surveillance and case buildup.

This limitation is further compounded by the “no contact policy,” which prevents BI personnel from approaching foreign nationals directly.

Additionally, Joann Lagaman, Acting Alien Control Officer of BI-Iloilo, revealed that foreign nationals’ documents are not rechecked during domestic flights.

Immigration officers only inspect documents at the initial port of entry into the country. BI also lacks individual tracking devices for foreign nationals, making it challenging to monitor their movements without specific tips or information.

Meanwhile, ICPO Director PCOL Joeresty Coronica confirmed ongoing investigations to identify the facilitators of the 17 Chinese nationals arrested last November in Jaro, suspected of cybersex and human trafficking activities.

“Yes, we have the name or the names of the owner. It’s still a work in progress; we are still collecting some data needed in our investigation to identify their facilitators,” Coronica said.

Despite this, he confirmed that there are currently no organized illegal activities by foreign nationals.

But he acknowledged the need for constant monitoring, especially concerning Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) operations, which are linked to various crimes.

“As of now, there are no organized activities perpetrated by foreign nationals [in Iloilo City], but we are not discounting the possibility. That is why we are constantly monitoring the activities of any foreign nationals, especially with regard to POGO operations,” he remarked.

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