PH Immigration to impose one-strike policy vs corruption

Robie de Guzman   •   November 5, 2020   •   316

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Thursday said it will implement a one-strike policy against its erring personnel as part of its efforts to fight corruption.

Under the one-strike policy, erring personnel who are the subject of complaints and investigations will be relieved from their posts immediately, the BI said.

The measure comes after several Immigration officials were subjected to investigation over their alleged involvement in the “pastillas” bribery scheme which allegedly takes advantage of Chinese nationals who wish to be escorted to dodge the immigration screening process for a fee.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said he has ordered the BI’s newly-reconstituted Board of Discipline (BOD) to “carefully assess complaints and reports against erring personnel” and to “immediately recommend to the Department of Justice (DOJ) the filing of administrative case” if they find merit.

The BI said that since 2016, one hundred thirty-one (131) personnel have been suspended, dismissed, and dropped from the rolls for various offenses.

“We do not tolerate corruption amongst our ranks,” Morente said.

“In support of the President’s intensified drive against corruption, we have beefed up our Board of Discipline (BOD) to focus on cleaning up the Bureau,” he added.

The BOD is currently headed by lawyer Ronaldo Ledesma, who previously served as the Bureau’s OIC Commissioner and OIC Deputy Commissioner. Five additional lawyers have also been assigned by the DOJ to the BOD.

The BI chief earlier lamented the bureau’s lack of disciplinary powers over its own employees, noting that its set up under the current immigration law is merely recommendatory to the DOJ.

“If administrative control was to be given to the BI, if we find someone involved in improper activities in the morning, we can immediately implement a suspension in the afternoon,” he said.

Morente also urged the public to report any illegal activities to the BI’s hotline +632 86452400 or via its Facebook page.

BI nabs ‘fake Filipino’ in Pasay City

Marje Pelayo   •   January 25, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Sunday (January 24) reported the arrest of a Chinese national who allegedly misrepresented herself as a Filipino national.

In a statement, BI Commissioner Jaime Morente announced the arrest of 51-year-old Li Xinlei inside the Pasay City Hall compound by members of the BI’s Intelligence Division (ID) on Thursday (January 21).

Further investigation revealed that Li is a fugitive from justice, subject of an arrest warrant in China for economic crimes.

“When our agents arrested her, she was unable to show proper documentation,” shared BI ID Chief Fortunato Manahan, Jr.

‘Records show that she is already overstaying, and has reportedly misrepresented herself as a Filipino using a fraudulently acquired Philippine passport,” he added.

Li was in the city hall for a scheduled preliminary investigation for a separate case when the BI agents conducted the arrest.

“This is a significant arrest for the BI as Li is part of a list of wanted criminals that we have been pursuing,” stated Manahan.  

“The Chinese government sought our assistance in locating and deporting these fugitives, so they may face trial in their home country for their crimes,” he added.

Li underwent RT-PCR testing as a matter of protocol, and was turned over to the BI Warden Facility in Taguig for detention, pending her deportation.

“She will be blacklisted—meaning perpetually banned from entering our country,” said Morente.  

“Let this serve as a warning to aliens who will attempt to use the Philippines as their hideout.  Despite the pandemic, we will not stop.  Your days are numbered,” he warned.

Alleged Korean online prostitution ring leader nabbed in PHL

Robie de Guzman   •   January 20, 2021

MANILA, Philippines A Korean national wanted in his home country for operating an online prostitution advertising site was arrested in the Philippines, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said Wednesday.

BI Commissioner Jaime Morente identified the foreigner as Seo Jung Nam, 41, who was arrested in Amor Riverside Anunas in Angeles City, Pampanga on Wednesday morning.

The operation was conducted by the bureau’s Fugitive Search Unit (FSU) in coordination with Korean authorities following receipt of information about Seo, with an Interpol Seoul Notice issued last December.

The bureau said Seo has been in the country since 2015.

BI FSU Chief Bobby Raquepo said the suspect is facing a sexual exploitation and prostitution case in Korea for allegedly placing prostitution advertisements online, as well as in business areas.

An arrest warrant was issued against him by the Uijeongbu District Court in Korea in 2018.

Seo, along with other accomplices, reportedly earned a profit of approximately 32 million Korean Won or P1.3 million by operating the online prostitution site under the name Playboy.

“We received information from our Korean counterparts that Seo’s passport is also undergoing revocation, making him an undocumented alien,” Raquepo said.

The arrested individual will be presented to the BI’s Legal Division for an inquest, and shall be turned over to the BI’s Warden Facility in Taguig following Covid-19 testing, the BI said.

Intercepted Filipino victims of illegal recruitment, trafficking down in 2020 – BI

Robie de Guzman   •   January 18, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Monday reported that close to 12,000 Filipino travelers were barred from leaving the country last year amid the bureau’s continued drive against illegal recruitment and human trafficking.

BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said immigration officers at the different ports of exit deferred the departure of 11,706 passengers, of which 9,411 were stopped at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

The agency said that the number of passengers whose departure was deferred last year was 70% lower than the 38,522 travelers who were stopped from leaving in 2019.

“Travel restrictions and international flight suspensions imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic naturally caused a tremendous drop in the number of Filipinos who traveled abroad in 2020,” Morente said in a statement.

He noted that it was only during October that the government started the gradual lifting of travel restrictions, including the ban on non-essential travel by Filipinos.

Nonetheless, Morente stressed it was evident that the pandemic did not stop human traffickers and illegal recruiters from their nefarious activities.

“Thanks to our vigilant immigration officers at the ports, many of these suspected human trafficking victims were intercepted and rescued before they could leave,” he said.

BI intelligence chief Fortunato Manahan Jr., who supervises the BI’s travel control and enforcement unit, also reported that 295 passengers were turned over to the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking as possible trafficking victims.

Manahan said the most common reasons for preventing a passenger from leaving are failure to present required documents, carrying fraudulent documents, and misrepresentation.

Meanwhile, Morente reminded those who wish to work abroad not to fall prey to illegal recruiters and human traffickers and to coordinate with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration to ensure that their work is registered.

“We are worried that once international travel returns to normal, there will be again a rise the number of victims,” he said.

“These illegal recruiters will sweet talk their victims and take advantage of the hardships that some of our kababayan face to make them agree to below-standard arrangements,” he added.

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