Immigration chief orders probe on ‘pastillas’ scheme

Aileen Cerrudo   •   February 18, 2020   •   535

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) Commissioner Jaime Morente has ordered for an investigation on the alleged “pastillas” bribery scheme involving the entry of Chinese nationals into the country.

“I have ordered a full-blown investigation to know if such corrupt practices still exist, and to find out who are possibly part of this syndicate to file both administrative and criminal cases against them,” he said.

The Immigration Chief expressed alarm after Senator Risa Hontiveros revealed conversations among immigration officers (IOs) where they reportedly facilitated entry of Chinese nationals.

On Monday (February 17), Hontiveros said Chinese nationals are allowed into the country for the price of P10,000. The money is rolled into a bond paper, similar to the Filipino dessert, pastillas.

Hontiveros said around a billion pesos may have already been disbursed as kickbacks.

Morente also said that a letter directive was already issued to create a fact-finding committee to conduct an investigation and submit a report to his office within 15 days.

“We will not take this sitting down. As seen in past cases against erring personnel, we will not hesitate to impose harsh penalties on those who are found to be committing corrupt practices,” he said.—AAC

BI field offices to close for disinfection, will resume on April 13

Robie de Guzman   •   April 7, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) has announced that the normal operations in its provincial field offices that are closed for disinfection will resume on April 13.

In a statement on Monday, Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente announced that some of its provincial operations will be temporarily suspended this week to allow the conduct of “much-needed disinfecting” following the spread of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

He said this is to protect the bureau personnel and the transacting public from contracting the disease.

“This move was done after a careful study, and it will definitely not affect our operations,” Morente said.

“Most offices have zero to two transactions per day due to the quarantine, add that to the fact that most international airports have also temporarily ceased operations,” he added.

Morente, however, clarified that immigration offices near operating international airports, as well as their main office in Intramuros will remain open to cater to urgent matters.

“Many of the foreign nationals who are leaving depart via sweeper flights organized by their embassies. Our key offices shall remain open to coordinate this, including our airport and seaport operations,” he said.

He advised foreign nationals to contact the BI’s National Operations Center through phone numbers +63285243769 and +63284652400 or via email at xinfo@immigration.gov.ph, immigPH@gmail.com or binoc_immigration@hotmail.com.

The bureau may also be reached through its social media accounts Facebook.com/officialbureauofimmigration and Facebook.com/immigration.helpline.ph.

Senators blast politicians taking advantage of COVID-19 crisis to campaign for 2022 polls

Robie de Guzman   •   April 3, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Minority senators on Friday lambasted politicians who are taking advantage of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis to advance their political agenda, hampering the speedy delivery of relief to millions of poor families.

In a joint statement, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, and Senators Francis Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros criticized politicians who are exploiting the current public health situation to campaign for the 2022 elections, leaving millions of vulnerable and low-income Filipino families unassisted.

“It is not red tape. It is the 2022 political campaign that is hampering the immediate distribution of relief to millions of poor families,” the senators said.

The lawmakers issued the statement following complaints regarding the “sluggish” release of assistance by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and other government agencies.

“It saddens us that there are people who could be so heartless and power hungry as to take advantage of this crisis to advance their political ambition,” the lawmakers said.

“To presidential wannabees, hands off, please. Go away,” they added.

The senators stressed that the distribution of disaster aid and the bureaucracy is politicized when political campaign gets in the way.

“Worse, national and local officials who have shown initiative and innovation in responding to COVID-19 crisis are politicized, criticized and crucified, which would only add to the suffering of our countrymen and women,” they said.

The lawmakers also called on private corporations and charity groups to be discerning and to not allow themselves to be used for obvious political propaganda, especially during these trying times.

They also called on the DSWD and other government agencies to just use their existing database instead of distributing social amelioration cards (SAC) in implementing the government’s emergency subsidy program for the COV-19 crisis as provided in the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

The SAC is a form being distributed at the barangay level to capture the family profile, which will be used as the basis in providing aid to the affected families.

“Let us spare our fellow Filipinos this unnecessary procedure. Our kababayans are getting hungry and desperate for help. They lost jobs. Give the aid ASAP,” they said.

Japanese arrested for working in PH without permit

Robie de Guzman   •   March 30, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Monday said its operatives have apprehended a Japanese national in Davao City for working without proper permit and visa.

In a statement, Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said the Japanese man, identified as 45-year old Kiyoshi Yokoyama, was arrested last March 18 at an office in Davao City where he was allegedly employed as general manager.

Yokoyama was arrested after his staff complained of maltreatment.

According to BI intelligence chief Fortunato Manahan Jr., a female employee had complained that last January 3, Yokoyama threatened to physically harm her “in a fit of rage.”

The incident was reportedly witnessed by other employees.

“She said she felt very humiliated that all she could do was cry,” Manahan said.

He also stated that other than disclosing the Japanese national’s lack of work permit, the employees also demanded that Yokoyama be deported “for being anti-Filipino because of his oppressive and abusive conduct towards company employees.”

The bureau said that a check of Yokoyama’s travel history showed that he has been frequenting the country as a tourist since 2013 and that there is no record that he obtained or applied for a working visa with the BI.

A verification made with the Department of Labor and Employment office in Region 10 also showed that Yokoyama did not secure or apply for an alien employment permit.

“We cannot tolerate the continued stay of foreigners who blatantly violate our laws by working without permit and oppress Filipino workers,” Morente said.

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