By Genalyn Kabiling
Immigration personnel involved in the alleged “pastillas” bribery scheme have been relieved from their posts upon the orders of President Duterte and will most likely face appropriate charges, Malacañang announced Thursday.
The President has found “probable cause” in the bribery complaints against the concerned immigration personnel and deplored such an anomaly as a “grave form of corruption,” according to Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.
“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has relieved all officials and employees of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) who are involved in the latest bribery scheme where they purportedly facilitate the entry into and exit from Philippine territory of foreigners working for Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) for an unauthorized fee,” he said in a Palace press briefing.
“The President considers this anomaly, which some define as the ‘pastillas scheme,’ as a grave form of corruption which cannot be countenanced by the government,” he added.
Panelo maintained that there would be “no sacred cows” in the Duterte administration amid efforts to combat corruption. “Any official or employee who commits any wrong in the performance of their respective duties shall be meted out with the punishment that they deserve and in accordance with our penal laws.”
So far, Panelo said he was unaware who and how many immigration officials were “sacked” from their posts.
He admitted that the President received complaints about the alleged bribery involving the immigration personnel and found “probable cause” to merit the relief of those involved.
Asked if the government will file charges against the alleged erring immigration personnel, Panelo said: “Most likely.”
Panelo said the latest issue hounding the immigration bureau will be tackled in the next Cabinet meeting. He added that they will also discuss how the bureau is being run by Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente.
Asked if Morente still enjoys the trust and confidence of the President, Panelo said: “Until such time the President makes the announcement.”
Five immigration officials were recently removed from their posts pending an investigation into the alleged bribery scheme involving bureau personnel and Chinese workers in POGOs. Under the “pastillas” scheme exposed in a recent Senate inquiry, Chinese workers allegedly pay P10,000 to immigration personnel for easy entry into the country.