Revamp of 80-year-old Immigration law will solve corruption in bureau — Morente

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Revamp of 80-year-old Immigration law will solve corruption in bureau � Morente
Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente served as one of the resource persons during the Senate inquiry held February 20, 2020.
The STAR / Geremy Pintolo

MANILA, Philippines — Modernizing the 80-year old Immigration law will address the corruption woes long plaguing the bureau, Commissioner Jaime Morente said Tuesday.

Morente, in a statement, said that the bureau has already implemented policies that will address corruption in its ranks, but the real and long-term solution would be updating the Philippine Immigration Act of 1940.

The BI commissioner said he has already raised this to Duterte. “The Philippine Immigratin Act is a very old law, 80 years to be exact. It was enacted during a time when there were no international flight yet entering and leaving the country,” he added.

Morente stressed that many of the law’s provisions are already “outdated and inappropriate.”

During the February Senate inquiry that revealed the “pastillas” scheme, whistleblower Allison Chiong the money-making racket started when the government vetoed the use of Travel Express Fund for the overtime pay of BI employees. The money they pocket from arriving travelers was used to augment their salaries.

In 2018, the Malacañang admitted that the basic monthly pay of immigration employees is “extremely low,” and has lead to “a large number of resignations and causing prejudice to the efficient delivery of frontline services.”

Short- and medium-term solutions already implemented

Morente said that as short-term solution to the corruption in BI, they enforced relief of those linked to the controversy. The bureau has also implemented a one-strike policy against erring officials and personnel.

Previously, investigation would come before a relief order. With the new policy, the bureau will order the worker’s immediate relief pending investigation. The complaint, if found to have merit, will be elevated to the Department of Justice.

Morente said that for a medium-term solution, the bureau has reorganized its system to add layers of checks and balances.

The BI chief said that implementing these new policies may secure them “quick wins” but stressed that a new law may cure the systemic problems entrenched in the bureau.

“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,” he added.

RELATED: Why leave Mariñas out of 'dressing down' over 'pastillas' bribery? — Hontiveros

Palace: Duterte still trusts Morente

Despite the bureau facing another corruption scandal, Morente continues to enjoy the president's full trust and confidence, Malacañang said Tuesday afternoon, defending yet another appointee in an agency wracked by corruption allegations.

"You know the rule, all presidential apppointees serve at the pleasure of the president. When there is no more trust, they will no longer serve," presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in Filipino during a virtual briefing after being pressed on Morente's standing with the chief executive. 

This is not the first time that Duterte has defended Morente, who served as his chief of police when he was still mayor of Davao City. 

In February, as the Senate investigated the "pastillas" scheme, Duterte expressed deep fondness for Morente at a speech delivered in Davao City, saying : "Mahal ko 'yan kasi chief of police 'yan dito (I love him because he used to be chief of police here)." — With Bella Perez-Rubio 

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