MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte is giving Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente an opportunity to address the issues plaguing the Bureau of Immigration (BI), Malacañang said on Tuesday.
Speaking to Palace reporters, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Morente still enjoys Duterte’s trust and confidence.
“Well, apparently, he (Duterte) is giving Commissioner Morente a chance to do some innovations in the Immigration (bureau),” he said.
Panelo made the remarks nearly a week after Duterte said Morente’s fate lies on the results of the pending investigations into the supposed irregularities committed by some BI personnel.
He said Morente even joined the 47th Cabinet meeting held at Malacañan Palace on Monday amid controversies plaguing BI.
Duterte was convinced that Morente, who is subject to the National Bureau of Investigation’s (NBI) ongoing investigation into the alleged bribery of some BI personnel, is “not involved” in the supposed unlawful money-making activity, Panelo said.
“The tone there is apparently he (Morente) is not involved. Otherwise, kung involved yun, eh di tinanggal na yun (if he is involved, he is already removed from office),” he said.
Panelo noted that Morente also recommended the issuance of an executive order that aims to solve the problems in the Bureau of Immigration.
“He (Morente) reported on what they intend to do about it. In other words, they are introducing an executive order, if I’m not mistaken, to address certain issues that have been raised,” he said.
The BI, with Morente at the helm, is currently in hot water following the recent discovery of the so-called “pastillas” scheme, which involves some immigration personnel who are allegedly facilitating the entry of Chinese nationals working in the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators in exchange for PHP10,000 grease money.
Panelo said Morente is still being investigated, even after Duterte continues to vouch for his integrity.
“Let me make it very clear. There is nobody that is exempted from any investigation when there is a complaint of corruption. Regardless of who you are, if there is a complaint, you will be investigated,” he said.
To date, some 18 BI officials and employees have been relieved of their duties due to their supposed involvement in the bribery scheme.
Panelo said the relieved BI personnel will be formally charged once results of the investigation show that they committed an unlawful act.
“The moment we see there is a probable cause, they will be sued definitely,” he said.
Panelo said Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told Duterte during the Cabinet meeting that he has already directed the NBI to investigate the corrupt practices in the country’s airport terminals.
“The focus of this investigation is on two main areas of concern, namely, human trafficking involving outbound passengers, mostly overseas Filipino workers; and escort or facilitation services involving foreign nationals who entered Philippine territory without proper or falsified documentation,” he said.
Duterte earlier said he is set to axe another set of BI officials and employees who are involved in the money-making scheme.
He also bared that he is eyeing the services of Civil Service passers with good track record as replacement for erring BI personnel. (IA/PNA)