MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte is giving Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente a chance to clean up the corruption mess at the Bureau of Immigration, Malacañang said Tuesday.
Morente attended the Cabinet meeting on Monday night and introduced an executive order to address the reported bribery scheme involving Immigration personnel and Chinese nationals, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said.
“He’s (Duterte) giving Commissioner Morente a chance to do something about the problem in Immigration,” Panelo told reporters in Malacañang.
The Bureau of Immigration has been under public scrutiny for the past few days after opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros revealed the so-called "pastillas" bribery scheme.
Under the said scheme, Chinese nationals who illegally work at Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) hubs pay Immigration personnel and Chinese and Filipino travel agencies P10,000 in grease money rolled in bond paper—similar to the look of the local milk candy.
The President had earlier ordered the relief of all BI personnel allegedly involved in the bribery scheme, but spared Morente, saying he “loves” the former Davao police chief.
“Apparently, he’s (Duterte) giving Commissioner Morente a chance to do some innovations in the Immigration [Bureau],” Panelo said.
Last month, Morente said he was disappointed over the illegal activities of some of his personnel, particularly in relation to the “pastillas” bribery scheme.
Aside from the bribery scheme, Panelo said the National Bureau of Investigation was ordered to investigate “corrupt practices” in the country’s airports.
The investigation, ordered by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, will focus on human trafficking involving outbound passengers, most of whom are overseas Filipino workers.
It would also deal with the facilitation services involving foreign nationals who entered Philippine territory without proper documentation.
Asked if Morente is covered by the NBI investigation, Panelo said there was no mention of it and emphasized instead the President’s trust on the official.
“The tone there is apparently he (Morente) is not involved. Otherwise, kung involved ‘yun, eh di tinanggal na 'yun,” Panelo said.
“The President, as he already said it publicly, kilala niya (he knows him) and he believes in him (Morente),” he added.