Duterte summons BI personnel allegedly involved in pastillas controversy

Aileen Cerrudo   •   November 10, 2020   •   253

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday (November 10) summoned to Malacañang the forty-four Bureau of Immigration (BI) personnel allegedly involved in the ‘pastillas’ controversy.

According to Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra, Duterte handed each of the BI personnel peso bills that were wrapped to look like pastillas. The said personnel were suspended by the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) due to their alleged involvement in the ‘pastillas scheme’.

“He wanted them to eat the pastillas, but did not insist ‘out of deference to the secretary of justice who was also present’. He said, either you eat it or give it to the first beggar you see,” Guevarra said in a statement.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the stunt was to reiterate the President does not tolerate corruption.

Nagsabi rin po ang president na dapat matigil na ang korupsyon, at nagsabi rin ang president na kayo’y nakasuhan na, depensahan ninyo ang sarili ninyo (The President also said that corruption should be curbed and he also said you will face charges. Defend yourself),” he said.

Meanwhile, in a statement, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said the passage of the Immigration Act will help curb corruption in the agency. The act aims to respond to the concerns of Immigration personnel with regard to salary.

“The new law, which is already in Congress, will answer salary woes, remove systemic issues, plug loopholes in policies, update fines and penalties, ensure division of power, and confer to the Commissioner the proper disciplinary powers,” the statement reads. -AAC (with reports from Dante Amento)

Senate committee approves bill giving Duterte authority to defer SSS hike

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 26, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—The Senate Committee on Government Corporations and Public Enterprises on Tuesday (January 26) approved a Senate bill that will grant President Rodrigo Duterte the authority to defer or suspend the Social Security System (SSS) contribution rate hike.

Under Senate Bill 1970, the Chief Executive can suspend the implementation of the SSS contribution hike during a national emergency or state of calamity for six months.

While the SSS administration acknowledges the bill, it reiterated the need to implement the contribution hike this year.

SSS President and CEO Andrea Ignacio said delaying the implementation might have a negative effect on the government’s financial situation.

“Delaying this implementation of any reform will worsen an already dire financial institution. The new contribution schedule in the SSS Charter is a long overdue reform. SSS has increased its pension benefit 25 times while it adjusted contribution rate only 8 times to date,” he said.

He added that SSS would not have enough budget to pay their pensioners for the next 30 to 40 years. However, Ignacio said they will not force unemployed individuals to pay.

“We acknowledge that the contribution hike will add a little burden to our employers and workers but, at the same time, the fact is we are asking for this hike only to those who are able to do so. The employers who are operating and the workers that still have their jobs,” he said.

Meanwhile, Senator Joel Villanueva and committee chairperson Senator Richard Gordon said the contribution hike will further burden the citizens, especially during the pandemic.

Iyong may trabaho at may negosyo, sa halip na hindi na natin sila i-burden out, bibigyan pa natin sila ng additional burden na isipin (Those with jobs and business, instead of easing their burden, we are giving them an additional burden they have to think about), Villanueva said.

Lalala ang situation, baka ang mangyari masyadong hirap na. Talagang dapat tingnan natin kung anong gagawin natin to alleviate their pain (The situation might worsen. We should look for ways on how to alleviate their pain),” said Gordon.

Under Republic Act 11199 or the Social Security Act of 2018 the contribution hike for this year will increase by 13% and 15% by 2025. -AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

Chinese nationals top list of foreigners deported by PH in 2020 – BI

Robie de Guzman   •   January 26, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Tuesday reported that over 3,000 foreigners, almost all of whom are Chinese nationals, were deported last year for violating Philippine immigration laws.

Immigration Commissioner Jamie Morente said that of the total 3,219 deportees, 3,009 were Chinese nationals.

“Deported aliens are automatically placed in our blacklist, and are banned from re-entering the Philippines,” Morente said in a statement.

Many of the deportees were arrested for working without permit, engaging in unauthorized online gaming operations, and telecommunications fraud, economic crimes, investment scams, and cybercrime activities, according to the BI chief.

Morente, however, noted that due to the pandemic the number of aliens deported last year was lower compared to the more than 6,000 who were expelled in 2019.

“This was a result of travel restrictions imposed by the government, wherein very little number of aliens were able to enter the country,” he said.

Aside from Chinese nationals, the immigration bureau also deported last year 60 Vietnamese, 40 Koreans, 25 Americans, 20 Japanese, 12 Indians, and five Pakistanis.

They were ordered deported by the three-man BI Board of Commissioners, after finding them guilty of committing various immigration offenses such as overstaying, working without permit, illegal entry, and being undocumented, Morente said.

“Some of them are wanted fugitives whose arrest and deportation was sought by governments of the countries where they have been charged or convicted for various crimes,” he added.

As of December 22, there were 276 aliens still detained at the bureau’s detention facility in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City while awaiting deportation, the bureau said.

Immigration Bureau arrested 510 illegal aliens in 2020

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 25, 2021

MANILA, Philippines— The Bureau of Immigration (BI) reported that its intelligence operatives arrested a total of 510 foreigners last year for violating Philippine immigration laws.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said the foreigners were arrested in various enforcement operations. Majority of those arrested are Chinese nationals caught in the act of engaging in illegal online gaming and cybercrime activities.

“Because of the pandemic and community quarantines imposed, there was a decrease in the movement of aliens,” said Morente. “A lot of foreign nationals also joined repatriation flights back to their home countries,” he added.

BI intelligence chief Fortunato Manahan Jr. reported 32 Chinese nationals in Tarlac last December for illegally working in the country and involvement in cybercrimes. There are also 14 Indian nationals arrested for allegedly overstaying and being improperly documented.

Meanwhile, 14 South Korean and 2 Vietnamese were caught without permits and engaging in unauthorized business activities. AAC

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