Duterte says it’s status quo for Immigration chief Morente for now

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 26 2020 08:54 PM

MANILA- It’s status quo for Bureau of Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente for now, President Rodrigo Duterte said Wednesday as he awaits results of investigations on allegations of corruption in the agency.

Before making a decision, Duterte said he would defer to Congress’ and the Department of Justice’s respective investigations on the so-called "pastillas" scheme, where Chinese nationals pay grease money to Immigration personnel and other cohorts to be able to enter the Philippines as tourists and then work later in the country's offshore gaming industry.

“Wala akong gagawin (I will not do anything). Not yet, not after the investigation. But I think the Secretary of Justice is also doing his homework,” the President told reporters in Malacañang.

The "pastillas" scheme was revealed in a Senate inquiry by opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros. According to her informant, a Chinese national pays an additional P10,000 to be able to land a job in the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO) industry. The amount is divided among Philippine immigration personnel and Chinese and Filipino travel agencies. The grease money is rolled in bond paper, similar to the Philippines' milk-based candy called, 'pastillas.'

At present, Duterte said he is not inclined to investigate prevailing policies on offshore gaming operations despite several issues hounding the industry, ranging from sex trafficking to corruption.

He explained it would be “prudent” for him to wait for things to “settle down.”

“I will wait for this thing to settle down. I will not investigate if there is a flurry of actions being taken here and there, and also with the investigation sa China. It would be prudent for me to just wait,” he said.

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.

Duterte added that he is still for the replacement of “almost” all Immigration personnel linked to corruption.

“I am insisting on the ouster of all involved. I think we have terminated...but there will be more. I think meron yatang napaalis (some were relieved) ‘no, but these should be replaced, all of them,” he said.

Morente last week said he was disappointed over the illegal activities of some of his personnel, particularly in relation to the “pastillas” bribery scheme. An internal investigation has since been launched.

"As the Commissioner, I am very disappointed with the unauthorized activities of some personnel who continue to commit irregularities despite our determined efforts to get rid of the culture of corruption in the Bureau since 2016," Morente said in a statement last Saturday.

Morente said additional measures have been put in place to deter other illegal activities within the bureau.

"As added measures to deter and expose any more illegal activities, we have included new protocols in the conduct of secondary inspections in open areas to improve transparency and installation of additional CCTV cameras in all areas of the primary inspectors,” he said.