The Philippines has banned for life an American traveler whom it accused of writing “profane words” on a digital immigration form and being rude to immigration officers.
Anthony Laurence, 34, was refused entry and put on a blacklist permanently following his allegedly “disrespectful” behavior, the Philippine Bureau of Immigration Commissioner Norman Tansingco said in a statement last week.
Laurence had flown into Ninoy Aquino International Airport in the capital city of Manila from Bangkok, Thailand, via an Air Asia flight on November 7, according to the statement.
According to Philippine authorities, upon his arrival, he allegedly “showed disdain” toward one immigration officer when he was reminded to fill out an online travel form and tossed his passport and mobile phone at another.
Laurence, who told CNN he is a property investor who lives in the country intermittently, disputes the immigration authority’s account.
Immigration Commissioner Tansingco said in his statement that, “After verifying [Laurence’s information] in our system, the officer discovered that the passenger had keyed in a made-up address in the Philippines, did not include his full name, and inputted profane words in his entry.”
He added that immigration officers had been advised to exercise maximum tolerance, but the foreign national had “overstepped his boundaries.”
“Such behavior is not only disrespectful but also undermines the efficiency of the system,” the commissioner said.
“Our agency is committed to ensuring a seamless experience to the traveling public. We expect all individuals to conduct themselves with respect and adhere to the established procedures. Any violation of these procedures will be dealt with firmly,” he added.
But Laurence disputes that account, telling CNN that he had neither thrown anything nor raised his voice during the incident.
He said he had sought help from the immigration officers but was turned away when he could not get the travel form on his phone to work correctly.
He said he had made three failed attempts to fill out the form, then became frustrated and entered incorrect information in a bid to “quickly get through immigration” for his connecting flight to Cebu – and that on this attempt, the application went through.
He did not respond to CNN’s questions about what he wrote on the form and whether it included any profanities.
But he said, “I immediately apologized and the immigration officer wasn’t interested.”
“I even hand-wrote an apology to the immigration officer which he wasn’t interested in as well,” Laurence added.
Laurence said the Philippine authorities had overreacted and accused them of depriving him due process, adding that he was not given any official document informing him of the ban.
“In fact, I learned much of the government’s position from the articles they published about me and not from them directly,” he said, referring to media reports about the encounter.
He did not divulge whether he had plans to return to the Philippines, saying only that he would now have to divest himself of his property investments there.
According to the immigration bureau, it has excluded and blacklisted 44 foreign nationals it deemed ‘disrespectful’ in 2023.