President Rodrigo Duterte is already completing a list of Bureau of Immigration (BI) officials that he would fire.
Duterte issued the statement amid the so-called “pastillas” scheme controversy in the BI where airport personnel allowed the illegal entry of Chinese nationals in exchange for bribes.
The scheme is called “pastillas” because the bribe money would be rolled in a sheet of bond paper, like the delicacy.
“Today I think I have to complete the list of officials that I’m going to fire, to dismiss from the Bureau of Immigration,” Duterte said in his speech on Tuesday during the oath-taking of newly-appointed government officials.
Duterte said the list of BI officials includes those whom he personally knows, either as Lex Talionis fraternity brother or someone who had been with him since 1988 when he first ran for mayor of Davao City.
“Early on, I fired my fraternity brothers, with whom I expected some help, some of my closest friends who were with me in my mayorship days. It leaves me sad. But I hope you understand, but I really didn’t know,” the President said.
In December 2016, Duterte ordered the dismissal of Al Argosino and Michael Robles, both associate commissioners of the BI, who were accused of extorting P50 million from Jack Lam for the release of Chinese nationals working for the gaming tycoon’s casino in Pampanga.
According to Duterte, both Argosino and Robles were his fraternity brothers, who helped him in his election campaign.
Duterte also warned that more officials from the BI would be fired due to the “pastillas scheme.”
He already earlier ordered the relief of immigration personnel involved.
Following this directive, the BI itself implemented a total revamp of its personnel at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
Meanwhile, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the President had given BI chief Jaime Morente another chance to address the issues of the agency.
Recently, Duterte expressed his support for Morente.
Panelo, however, said despite Duterte’s support, Morente is not yet off the hook since a probe of the controversy is still ongoing.
Earlier, Senator Risa Hontiveros revealed at a Senate hearing the pastillas scheme, through which an arriving Chinese national shells out a P10,000 “service fee,” of which P2,000 would be divided among officials of the BI’s Travel Control and Enforcement Unit, duty Immigration supervisor, and terminal heads.
The BI earlier placed at least 19 personnel on floating status pending the results of the investigation. Morente said sanctions will be implemented based on the investigation’s findings.
Morente also ordered a reshuffle of all personnel assigned at the NAIA Terminals 1, 2 and 3 in compliance with Duterte’s directive.
Morente said the bureau has activated new protocols in the conduct of secondary inspections in open areas “for transparency” and installed additional CCTV cameras in all areas of primary inspectors./Stacy Ang