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SONA remarks on ‘firing’ BI officials a presidential order?

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
SONA remarks on âfiringâ BI officials a presidential order?
During his SONA last Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte claimed to have fired 43 Bureau of Immigration (BI) officials tagged in the bribery scheme, in which grease money folded like pastillas, a popular Filipino dessert, was being accepted by corrupt immigration personnel.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte’s remarks on the “pastillas” bribery scandal during his final State of the Nation Address (SONA) served as a directive for agencies to dismiss those involved in irregularity, Malacañang said yesterday.

During his SONA last Monday, Duterte claimed to have fired 43 Bureau of Immigration (BI) officials tagged in the bribery scheme, in which grease money folded like pastillas, a popular Filipino dessert, was being accepted by corrupt immigration personnel.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, however, said the BI officials who were preventively suspended for six months by the Office of the Ombudsman have returned to work because their suspension has lapsed.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said Duterte might not have been aware that the immigration officials accused of involvement in the bribery scheme are not yet dismissed.

“But perhaps the effect of his word is that it is a mandate to the DOJ (Department of Justice) and the (Bureau of Immigration) to do everything to dismiss them as soon as possible,” Roque said at a press briefing.

“Their pastillas scheme is not acceptable. They have to be dismissed,” he added.

Yesterday, Guevarra said the DOJ would speed up the investigation of immigration personnel who allegedly accepted bribes to escort Chinese nationals illegally entering the country.

“We will expedite the investigation and impose the proper penalty upon those who may be found guilty,” he said.

The DOJ chief clarified that these BI officials are still facing administrative complaints before the DOJ and criminal complaints filed before the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB).

The OMB is already conducting a preliminary investigation.

The DOJ chief earlier explained that “under existing Civil Service Commission (CSC) rules, dismissal from service may be imposed for dishonesty and other major administrative offenses. Both the OMB and the DOJ may exercise that disciplinary power after giving the respondents their day in court.”

BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval said there were 86 immigration personnel suspended in connection with the pastillas scheme probe initiated by the Senate, of which 84 of them returned to the bureau and were assigned to administration offices with back-end and non-sensitive positions; one retired and one was a whistleblower in the controversy. – Evelyn Macairan

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