The Philippines: DOJ welcomes lifestyle check on immigration personnel
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Wednesday said he welcomes the proposed lifestyle checks on officials and personnel of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) following an exposé at the Senate hearing on a supposed protection racket for Chinese nationals entering the country.
“I support Sen. (Risa) Hontiveros' recommendation to conduct such a lifestyle check on suspected corrupt personnel of the BI, in the same way, that lifestyle checks are conducted on suspected BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue), BOC (Bureau of Customs), and other government officials and employees,” Guevarra said in a message to reporters.
He, however, said the result of lifestyle checks is not conclusive enough to be the basis of filing a criminal complaint but is only indicative of a government employee's possible unethical conduct.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has a standing order to look into the corruption activities in the BI such as human trafficking involving immigration personnel, escort services for a fee and now the 'pastillas' scheme, which was coined to describe the packaging of hush money purportedly given to immigration officials.
“The investigation of the BI personnel's involvement in human trafficking, escort services, extortion, and other illegal activities is already covered by existing department orders addressed to the NBI. I have asked the NBI chief (Director Dante Gierran) to submit progress reports on these matters to me as soon as possible,” Guevarra said.
During Monday's hearing of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equity, Hontiveros claimed Chinese nationals arriving in the country to work in Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO) got special treatment from some immigration personnel in exchange for money.
Hontiveros claimed that BI personnel are receiving PHP10,000 grease money which is divided among officials from the BI’s Travel Control and Enforcement Unit (TCEU), duty immigration supervisor and terminal heads, tour operators and “syndicates”.
On Tuesday, some immigration officials at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) have been relieved from their posts following the revelation of the 'pastillas' racket.