DOJ sees no problem with BI move to deport Pemberton

Robie de Guzman   •   September 9, 2020   •   222

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice sees no problem in having US soldier Joseph Scott Pemberton deported from the country after being granted pardon.

“If there was already a final deportation order against Pemberton, and he is not contesting it, then so be it. Either way, he’s out,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Wednesday in a message to reporters.

Guevarra’s remark came after the Bureau of Immigration (BI) announced it will implement its deportation order against Pemberton once he is released from detention and turned over to them by the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente earlier said the deportation order was issued against Pemberton in 2015 for being an undesirable alien when he was sentenced for the 2014 murder of Filipino transgender Jennifer Laude.

The BI chief explained that his request will enable the bureau to complete the deportation proceedings that was initiated against the American convict.

He also stressed that turning over alien convicts who have finished serving their prison sentences so they could be sent back to their country of origin is a standard operating procedure for BuCor.

Foreign nationals who are up for deportation are required to submit clearances from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and regional trial court as proof that they have no more pending criminal or civil cases.

Once these requirements are submitted, the deportee’s flight will then be arranged and scheduled by the BI.

Morente earlier said they will await instructions from Guevarra for guidance on how we will implement the deportation order in a manner that is within the prescribed laws of the country. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

PH Immigration opens isolation ward for foreign detainees with COVID-19

Robie de Guzman   •   September 21, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Monday announced it has opened a quarantine facility to house foreign detainees with mild to moderate symptoms of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The BI said its Ligtas COVID Centre is located inside the New Bilibid Prison Compound in Muntinlupa City.

The facility can accommodate 30 to 60 persons and will be staffed by medical personnel and guarded by the officers of the BI Warden Facility (BIWF) 24/7.

The BI said it is also planning to install CCTV cameras in the ward, similar to those in hospitals, for remote monitoring and to lessen physical contact.

The project is in partnership with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Corrections, the bureau said.

BIWF chief Remiecar Caguiron said they used to isolate foreign detainees with COVID-19 symptoms in the custodial quarters of their detention facility at Camp Bagong Diwa, adding that this setup poses a big risk for both the personnel and detainees of contracting the disease.

“We have very limited space in our warden facility, and the number of detained aliens remain high. That’s why this isolation ward lessens the risk, and is a big help in ensuring the health and safety of everyone in the BIWF,” she said.

There are currently 315 aliens detained at the BIWF for various immigration offenses.

The number of detainees ballooned following the BI’s crackdown on large companies that hired illegal aliens earlier this year.

The BI earlier reported that they moved to decongest the detention center as early as April this year.

Caguiron said more than a hundred aliens have already been deported since April, while at-risk detainees have been released on bail.

“Overcrowding in the facility is a health risk, and we want to ensure that we mitigate this risk and stop the spread of this disease though the help of this isolation facility,” she said.

The BI said five aliens have so far tested positive for coronavirus but most of them are now recovering from the viral respiratory disease.

Composite teams given 30 days to further probe PhilHealth mess – DOJ

Robie de Guzman   •   September 16, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The composite teams conducting investigation into the allegations of corruption within the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) have been given 30 days to further probe the issue, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said Wednesday.

In a statement, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said they will ask the teams to finish their investigations into PhilHealth’s IT and legal sectors in a month.

“Then we’ll prepare the complaints if there’s enough evidentiary basis,” he added.

The composite teams consist of members from the DOJ, National Bureau of Investigation, Anti-Corruption Commission, Anti-Money Laundering Council, and Office of the Special Assistant to the President, with the help of the Commission on Audit.

Guevarra said the timeline will begin when recently-installed PhilHealth president and CEO Atty. Dante Gierran formally assumes his post after he takes his oath on Wednesday.

The Task Force PhilHealth led by Guevarra already handed its probe results to President Rodrigo Duterte last Monday.

The report contained findings into the thousands of unfiled cases against erring PhilHealth employees and health care institutions, as well as recommendations on the filing of complaints against several officials of the agency, including its former chief Ricardo Morales.

Some lawmakers have expressed dismay over the exclusion of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who sits as PhilHealth chairman by virtue of his position, from the list of officials liable for the PhilHealth mess.

But Guevarra earlier stressed that other officials were spared from the list because the investigation is still ongoing.

Meanwhile, the camp of Morales assured that the former PhilHealth chief is ready to face the complaints relating to issues hounding the state insurer.

They also maintained that Morales had no hand in the alleged corruption within the agency.

“Our client is a man of integrity and completely denies any wrongdoings and the criminal charges against him,” Atty. Arnedo Valera, Morales’ legal spokesperson, said.

“His attorneys… will vigorously defend Gen. Morales and will appropriately respond to the criminal complaints either before the Department of Justice and or before the Ombudsman,” he added. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

Pemberton case leaves lessons to ponder on for future of VFA – DOJ

Robie de Guzman   •   September 14, 2020

US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton

MANILA, Philippines – The case of convicted killer US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton should be taken into account in reviewing the future of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States, Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.

Guevarra made the remark following the deportation of Pemberton on Sunday morning, a few days after he was granted absolute pardon by President Rodrigo Duterte.

The Justice chief believes that the issue also left lessons to ponder on regarding the administration of criminal justice in the country, as well as the presidential constitutional powers.

“I am relieved to see the end of Pemberton episode. Though attended with intense conflict, it has provided valuable insights and lessons to ponder on regarding the future of the visiting forces agreement, the administration of criminal justice, and the exercise of the president’s constitutional powers,” he said in a statement.

Pemberton departed from the country aboard a military aircraft bound for the United States at 9:14 a.m. on Sunday.

The Bureau of Immigration said that as a consequence of his deportation, Pemberton has been placed on the agency’s blacklist and can no longer return to the country.

“Perpetually banned na siya from entering the country and any attempt in the future to enter the Philippines hindi po siya papayagang pumasok. He will be excluded at pababalikin kung saan siya nanggaling,” said BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval.

The US serviceman was convicted of homicide for killing Filipino transgender Jennifer Laude inside a motel in Olongapo City in 2014.

Duterte granted him absolute pardon after an Olongapo court ordered the Bureau of Corrections to recompute the time that Pemberton served and to determine if he is eligible to avail the good conduct time allowance rule. – RRD (with details from Correspendent Dante Amento)

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