November 03, 2006

Luli and the airport immigration officer

Okay, 'fess up people! Who hasn't cut in front of a line, ever?

I for one, admit to having done this the Guam International Airport, at that, which strictly implements immigration and customs procedures the way the US does. It was raining hard, I was late, even the airline check-in counter was already closed. (I won't say which airline it was, but its ground staff was very, very helpful. The staff accommodated me by radioing her supervisor that I had to get on the plane to Manila because of an emergency. Ok, she lied because she saw I was really distressed about being late. So sue me.)

I passed immigration inspection without any hitches, but there was a really long line at the baggage inspection area. I knew there was no way I would be able to board my plane in time for the three-hour flight back to Manila.

It was a huge dilemma for me because I don't like cutting ahead of anybody. It's impolite. Nor do I like people cutting ahead of me and will probably do a Luli as well...but I would accost the person making singit, before complaining to the person allowing him to do so. Anyway, I decided to put my fate in the hands of the baggage inspection officer, an American from the mainland and who I knew would be a stickler for proper procedures. Still, if he said it was okay for me to cut in front of the line on account of my possibly missing my flight, my conscience wouldn't bother me as much. If he said no, then I would stay put, no problem, and bear the consequences.

But Lady Luck was sure smiling on me that day and the nice Amerikano allowed me to move up ahead, and even personally helped me carry my stuff to the front and onto the conveyer belt where the X-ray machine was. Of course, I hung my head in embarrassment, even as I mouthed my apologies to the people in the line I had passed. (I was too panicky to hear if there were any invectives hurled my way.) I was able to board my plane just as the gate way about to close. Whew!

Luli Arroyo (from

Make no mistake. What the NAIA Immigration officer did, allowing a Korean tourist to get ahead of the line, was wrong. (The tourist shouldn't even have been in the VIP line to begin with.) Shouting at Luli Arroyo was the graver offense I think, because no one deserves to be shouted at in public. (Okay, okay, hurray for Luli for providing a good example to others and lining up at the Immigration like everyone else. I don't understand though why she was queuing at the Diplomatic lane to begin with when, she is technically, not a diplomat. Wasn't she supposed to be on a personal trip? I'm ignorant about passport rules so I don't know whether a President's family members are considered "diplomats" and are allowed to hold diplomatic passports even if they don't work for the government.)

But really, this issue between Luli and the airport immigration officer, Padlan, could have been solved amicably, with an apology from the idiot. He then should have been given a tightly-worded memo by his supervisor or the Immigration chief, and warned to strictly follow agency procedures. It became a big issue just because it involved the President's daughter, and as usual, here is a situation where a government lackey (read: Immigration chief) wants to score pogi points with his boss staying illegally in Malacañang. (Talk about following proper procedures!)

Edgardo Padlan (from ABS-CBN News)

Civil Service rules call for a suspension of the erring official for a month up to six months, if I'm not mistaken, and not an outright dismissal for a first offense. If this guy is sacked, then he has every right to sue the government for violating his rights as a civil servant. And if Luli is really a stickler for rules, then by golly, even she should feel obligated to step forward in defense of Padlan. Sure, no one deserves a public tongue lashing the way Luli received, but no one deserves to be fired either for making a stupid mistake like Padlan made.

Btw, it's funny that no one in the media picked up the Korean tourist's name. I think it would be more interesting to find out how this guy feels about being the cause of a government employee's forced retirement.


AN UPDATE: According to Civil Service Commissioner Karina David, discourtesy only merits a reprimand on the first offense, one-month suspension on the second offense, and dismissal in the third offense.

If Padlan, however, is found to have been working with a fixer which allowed the accommodation of the Korean tourist, then he can be dismissed. Other than that, his rights as a civil servant (and he has been one for the past 30 years) should be protected, as I have said all along. Read David's pronouncements at GMA News TV, Nov. 3, 2006.)

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