Guevarra vows to speed up probe vs BI personnel in ‘pastillas’ scheme

Published July 29, 2021, 4:31 PM

by Jeffrey Damicog

Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra (2)

Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra said on Thursday, July 29, the Department of Justice (DOJ) will speed up its investigation against Bureau of Immigration (BI) officials and personnel who have been charged administratively in the “pastillas” scheme.

“The maximum penalty that we can impose is the dismissal of an employee found guilty of an offense like dishonesty or grave misconduct,” Guevarra said.

“We’ll expedite the investigation and impose the proper penalty upon those who may be found guilty,” he said.

He added that those suspended by the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) and have served their suspension have actually returned to work but placed on floating status.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) had filed before the OMB criminal charges against 86 BI officials and personnel in late 2020. The filing of the charges led to their preventive suspension of six months which they had served. The formal inquiry into the criminal aspect of the charges is still on-going.

Guevarra assured the swift resolution of the administrative charges against the BI officials and employees after Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque on Thursday, July 29, said the DOJ and BI should hurry up in firing immigration officials and personnel involved in the scheme.

During the State of the Nation Address (SONA) last Monday, July 26, President Duterte said he had fired BI officials and personnel tagged in the “pastillas” scheme.

Roque said: “Hindi pa siguro alam ni President na hind pa sila nasisisante (Maybe, the President does not know that they have not yet been fired).”

“Pero siguro po ang epekto ng kanyang binitawang salita yan po ay mandato sa DOJ, sa CID, gawin yung lahat para masisante yan sa lalong mabilis na panahon (What the President during the SONA should become a mandate for the DOJ and BI to do everything to have these BI officials and personnel fired as soon as possible),” Roque also said.

Explaining the jurisdiction of the DOJ and the OMB on the cases filed against the BI officials and employees, Guevarra said: “Both the OMB and the DOJ may exercise that disciplinary power after giving the respondents their day in court. Personnel who are on job-order basis only may be terminated immediately.”

The DOJ’s disciplinary jurisdiction over BI officials and employees is “purely administrative in character,” he said. It is the DOJ that appointes immigration officers.

On the other hand, he said “the OMB’s jurisdiction is both criminal and administrative.”

Under the pastillas scheme, those charged BI officials and personnel reportedly solicited and received money from foreigners, particularly Chinese nationals, to facilitate their entry into the country.

The scheme was dubbed “pastillas” after it was found that the alleged bribed money is wrapped in white paper to make it look like the Filipino candy delicacy.