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Immigration implements dismissal order vs 'pastillas' staff

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Immigration implements dismissal order vs 'pastillas' staff
Pastillas were placed on the chairs of the Immigration officials summoned by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte at the Malacañang Palace on November 9, 2020.
Presidential photo / Arcel Valderrama

MANILA, Philippines — The Bureau of Immigration has implemented the dismissal order against 45 of its officials and personnel, whom the Office of the Ombudsman held liable over the “pastillas” bribery scheme that let foreign nationals into the country without going through checks.

Justice Assistant Secretary Neal Bainto told reporters that the dismissal also carries “perpetual disqualification from holding public office, cancellation of eligibility, [prohibition] from taking civil service examinations, and forfeiture of retirement benefits.”

President Rodrigo Duterte announced last July that the immigration personnel had already been fired but Philstar.com found that they were actually back at their posts after serving a preventive suspension.

The Office of the Ombudsman in a 143-page decision found that 45 BI officers liable for administrative offenses of grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service over their involvement with the “pastillas scheme.”

The DOJ also conducted its own investigation, which stemmed from the Fact-Finding Investigation Committee of BI, to look into the case. Last week, the department recommended the dismissal of 18 personnel after they were also found administratively liable.

The money-making racket, first uncovered at hearings at the Senate, involves immigration officers receiving money, usually P10,000, rolled in paper—like the pastillas candy—from Chinese nationals for their seamless entry into the country.

Bainto explained that the Ombudsman order is immediately executory.

"We have confirmed from the BI that they have received the said Decision and the said 45 BI employees are no longer reporting for work," he added.

The DOJ official also said the forfeiture covers to possible benefits from the Government Service Insurance System, but Bainto said they are still confirming retirement benefits particular to the bureau. "However, Terminal Leave Benefits and personal contributions to the GSIS are not subject to forfeiture," he added.

In a separate interview with TeleRadyo, Bainto assured that the cleansing of BI, which has long been embroiled in corruption allegations, ranks continues.

"The efforts of DOJ and BI continue. Our Board of Discipline has also action so we can see that, we make it a point that if may evidence that backs it up, they can be held liable," he said partly in Filipino.

Amid the Senate probe into the "pastillas" scheme in 2020, The Immigration Officers Association of the Philippines called on "the government to eliminate all adverse conditions in the BI which are conducive to corrupt practices" as well as the enactment of "a law modernizing immigration policies and operations, as well as increasing salary scales and compensation of IOs and re-instituting their overtime benefits, among others."

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