Duterte relieves BI execs, personnel in ‘pastillas’ scheme

MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte has relieved all Bureau of Immigration (BI) personnel who are involved in the collection of “unauthorized” fees among Chinese nationals working in the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO), Malacañang announced on Thursday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Duterte considers the unlawful act committed by relieved BI officials and employees as a “grave form of corruption.”

“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has relieved all officials and employees of the Bureau of Immigration 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 for an unauthorized fee,” Panelo said in a regular Palace media briefing.

Panelo said Duterte arrived at such decision after receiving reports about the unlawful activity and finding probable cause to relieved BI personnel linked to the bribery scheme.

He, however, was not privy as to how many BI officials and employees were relieved of their respective duties.

Panelo stressed that Duterte would not tolerate such offense involving BI personnel.

He said those who will be proven engaged in the “pastillas” scheme will face appropriate sanctions.

“As we have repeatedly stressed, there are no sacred cows in this administration. 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,” he said.

The supposed “pastillas” scheme was first revealed by Senator Risa Hontiveros during a Senate hearing on Monday.

Hontiveros bared that Chinese nationals working in the POGO industry are paying around PHP10,000 as grease money to receive preferential treatment from BI officials.

She dubbed the unlawful activity as “pastillas” modus because the money was allegedly hidden in rolled bond paper, which is similar to the wrapper for the milk candy.

Panelo said the “pastillas” scheme will be tackled in the next Cabinet meeting.

He also maintained that BI Commissioner Jaime Morente still enjoys Duterte’s trust and confidence, unless the President changes his tune.

“The present situation in the Bureau of Immigration, as well as how it is being run by Commissioner Jaime Morente, will be taken up in the next Cabinet meeting,” Panelo said.

BI Spokesperson Dana Sandoval earlier disclosed that five unnamed BI officials were relieved due to “command responsibility.”

Morente earlier created a fact-finding committee that is expected to submit a report on the money-making activity by relieved BI personnel.  Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos/PNA –

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