Immigration Bureau sacks airport officials as it investigates billion-peso bribery claims

Five officials at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport have been sacked in connection with an alleged scheme in which officials accepted bribes in exchange for facilitating the entry of Chinese nationals into the country, the Bureau of Immigration announced today.

“[The bureau] immediately relieved all terminal heads, and the head of travel control and enforcement unit pending the result of the investigation,” Immigration Bureau spokeswoman Dana Sandoval said in an interview with radio station DZMM.

Sandoval added that officers in charge have been delegated to replace the sacked officers, but refused to release the names of those involved. They were terminated upon the orders of Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente.

“For prudence, I am unable to release the names of those relieved… it might be best to wait for the results of the investigation of the [bureau’s] fact-finding committee,” she told Rappler.

Read: Senator claims billion-peso corruption scheme facilitated entry of Chinese ‘VIPs’

Sandoval added that the commissioner had also ordered the creation of a committee to probe the allegations, which was given 15 days to investigate and submit a report.

“But the investigation does not revolve entirely around [the sacked officials]. We’re looking at the bigger picture, all that might be connected to this alleged scheme, whether internal or external,” Sandoval told GMA News.

Yesterday during a Senate hearing, Senator Risa Hontiveros accused corrupt immigration officials of receiving an estimated PHP1 billion (US$19.771 million) in bribes from Chinese travelers in the form of so-called “pastillas,” bundles of money rolled up and wrapped in paper like the milk-based confections.

The scheme, according to Hontiveros, was approved by the Immigration Bureau’s top officials, who she alleged were benefiting from the arrangement.

However, the bureau’s deputy commissioner, J. Tobias Javier, and its Port Operations Division head, Grifton Medina, who were both at the Senate hearing, rejected Hontiveros’ allegations and insisted it was the first time they’d heard of the alleged scheme.

This article, Immigration Bureau sacks airport officials as it investigates billion-peso bribery claims, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!