Duterte to sack fraternity brothers, allies at BI
MANILA, Philippines – After firing Bureau of Immigration (BI) officials and employees allegedly involved in a bribery scheme, President Rodrigo Duterte announced on Tuesday night, March 3, that he was sacking more people at the agency, including his fraternity brothers and longtime allies.
"'It grieves me to do it. It makes me sad," Duterte said In a speech before newly appointed government officials in Malacañang as he expressed disappointment over the situation.
Duterte did not mention any names but gave hints.
"Others are my fraternity brothers. Others were with me in ‘88 when I first ran for the mayorship and I never lost an election during the 10 elections of my life. Nalusot ako and I have this deep utang in my life (I made it through and I have this deep debt of gratitude in my life)," he said.
It would not be the first time for Duterte to sack his Lex Talionis Fraternity brothers at the BI over corruption allegations involving Chinese workers.
In December 2016, he fired then deputy BI commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles over their alleged extortion of P50 million from gaming tycoon Jack Lam for the release of hundreds of Chinese nationals working at the latter's Pampanga casino without the proper work visas.
What's happening in the BI? The bureau has been under intense scrutiny after opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros uncovered the "pastillas" bribery scheme in a Senate investigation on Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations’ (POGOs') links to sex trafficking and prostitution rings.
Hontiveros revealed a scheme where immigration officials received a P10,000-bribe for every illegal Chinese migrant they let slip into the country, despite the lack of proper and authentic documents. Payouts were given in rolled sheets of paper like pastillas (rolled milk sweets), though this modus has since evolved.
With some 1.8 million Chinese arrivals in the Philippines in recent years, Hontiveros claimed the scheme could have earned those involved at least P10 billion.
Following the controversy, the BI earlier said it relieved from duty immigration heads of terminals of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, and the head of its Travel Control and Enforcement Unit. The agency vowed to investigate the bribery allegations.
Despite this, Duterte earlier expressed fondness for Immigration Chief Jaime Morente, saying he "loved" him since he used to be his regional police chief when Duterte was Davao City mayor.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo earlier told reporters that in light of scandals hounding the bureau, Duterte was giving Morente a chance to carry out “innovations” in immigration. – Rappler.com