Immigration officers quietly return from suspension as ‘lozenge’ investigations continue


Kristine Joy Patag ( – July 28, 2021 – 12:10 p.m.

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte boasted in his latest State of the Nation address that he had fired officials identified in the “pastillas” program, but some are back to work as investigations fall. continue.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra confirmed that immigration officials who were given a six-month preventive suspension by the ombudsman’s office in December have returned to the office.

“The six-month preventive suspension of BI staff allegedly involved in the so-called ‘pastillas’ plan has already expired,” he said in a text message late Tuesday evening.

“These BI staff have returned to the main office and most of them have not received assignments while their cases remain pending,” Guevarra added.

Duterte in November summoned more than 40 BI officials involved in the “lozenge” program, where officers were said to have received money rolled in paper – similar to traditional Filipino milk candy – for the seamless entry of Chinese nationals. in the country.

In his SONA, Duterte said he wanted immigration officials to eat money wrapped in paper, but Guevarra’s presence prevented him from doing so.

“I have the [pastillas scheme] at the airport. There were 43 people involved. I fired them all. I really told them to quit government. I even rolled up money for the pastillas. “

READ: FULL TEXT: State of the Nation 2021 address by Duterte

A source said that the suspended immigration staff had already returned to work but had been posted outside the airport. When asked how many immigration officials involved in the scheme had been fired, the source replied: “Zero”.

Officials summoned to the Palace were put on a six-month preventive suspension by the Ombudsman for the first batch of complaints from the National Bureau of Investigation regarding racketeering.

The NBI filed a second batch of complaints in early November and the ombudsman issued six-month suspensions for 39 immigration officials. The earlier order of October 26 suspended 44.

Among those who returned to the office was former acting head of the port operations division Grifton Medina – the top official sued by the NBI – but the DOJ chief said he had not returned to the area. same division.

In a July 2021 office statement, Medina was cited as the head of the personnel section of BI.

Guevarra explained: “It is up to the BI commissioners if they wish to entrust these persons concerned with new missions. “

An order from the Department of Justice from May 2021 shown at “re-designates” Medina as acting head of the personnel section of the office. The position is “in addition to [his] previously assigned functions and responsibilities as head of the Good Governance Committee. “

Investigation in progress

The DOJ chief, however, stressed that investigations are still ongoing even though immigration officials have returned to the office.

“[T]The preliminary investigation carried out by the Mediator is still ongoing. The same applies to the administrative procedure carried out by the DOJ, ”he said.

He also said that these officials had “not been dismissed or dismissed, precisely because the investigation into their cases is still ongoing.”

The immigration office announced in November 2020 that it would implement a single strike policy against corruption. If the BI Disciplinary Board finds that a complaint is valid, the office will immediately recommend that an administrative complaint against the staff be filed with the Ministry of Justice, BI’s parent agency.

RELATED: Immigration announces ‘one strike policy’ against stray staff

The “pastillas” scheme was discovered during a Senate legislative inquiry led by Senator Risa Hontiveros in early 2020.

A year later, Hontiveros asked the NBI to investigate travel agencies that supposedly process fake passports and government documents to allow entry of foreign nationals into the country.

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