MANILA — Bureau of Immigration (BI) Commissioner Jaime Morente will not escape charges if the results of the pending investigation show he committed lapses in stopping the “pastillas” scheme, Malacañang said on Friday.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Morente is not yet off the hook, amid allegations that some BI personnel are facilitating the entry of Chinese nationals working in the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) in exchange for grease money.
He issued the statement even after President Rodrigo Duterte vouched for Morente’s integrity, despite controversies hounding the BI.
“As I’ve said, everyone is not off the hook. The confidence is there until contrary statement is made by the President,” Panelo told Palace reporters.
Chinese POGO workers are allegedly paying around PHP10,000 to get special treatment from Immigration officials and employees upon their arrival in the Philippines, Senator Risa Hontiveros bared on Monday.
The unlawful activity was dubbed “pastillas” scheme because the money paid to erring BI personnel was hidden in a rolled bond paper, which is similar to a wrapper for the milk candy.
Panelo said Morente’s fate would also be taken up in the next Cabinet meeting.
“It means he will be assessed, his performance,” he said.
The National Bureau of Investigation has already started the investigation into the alleged “pastillas” racket.
Panelo said Morente would also be subject of the ongoing probe.
“‘Pag involved ang isang opisina, eh ‘di lahat (When an office is involved in the scheme, all those working there are being investigated),” he said.
On Thursday, Duterte ordered the relief of BI personnel after receiving reports and finding probable cause to remove them from the bureau due to their supposed money-making activity.
BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval said around 18 Immigration personnel were relieved from their posts due to their supposed involvement in the bribery scheme.
Duterte also ordered the filing of appropriate charges against the relieved BI officials and employees.
Panelo said POGO workers who are tagged in the money-making activity will also be deported for violation of Immigration laws.
“Basta may illegal na nakapasok, eh ‘di pababalikin natin sa pinanggalingan nila. Basta may illegal na ginawa, ang Presidente natin, palaging ipatupad ang batas (If they illegally entered the country, we will deport them. The President will implement the law against those who commit offense),” he said. (iam/sovereignph.com/PNA)