Commissioner assures due process for BI personnel linked to 'pastillas' scheme

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Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente has assured that due process will be followed for the people in his agency who were involved in the so-called "pastillas" bribery scheme. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 22) — Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente has assured that due process will be followed for the people in his agency who were involved in the so-called "pastillas" bribery scheme.

Morente said the employees involved in the scheme, wherein Chinese nationals supposedly paid Bureau of Immigration personnel to avoid background checks upon arriving in the country, will be brought to court.

"We shall observe due process as we bring the accused to the court of justice,"said Morente in a statement on Saturday.

He added that he was "very disappointed" with the reported irregularities. Morente said he has placed the accused in the administrative holding office and cancelled their privileges.

The bureau also strengthened efforts to expose unethical practices in the agency, Morente said, and will participate in investigations and lifestyle checks by authorities.

"[We] have included new protocols in the conduct of secondary inspections in open areas to improve transparency and installation of additional CCTV cameras in all areas of the primary inspectors," Morente assured.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday still vouched for the Immigration chief despite the scandal. Shortly before, Duterte ordered to relieve all immigration personnel linked to the alleged bribery.

The BI sacked 18 employees to comply with the directive. However, another employee and the whistleblower in the scandal, claimed that around 90 percent of the bureau's personnel participated in the scheme. He also named several division heads who allegedly distributed the grease money.

Morente earlier attended the Senate hearing on the pastillas scandal and admitted he had limited authority over the appointment of high-ranking officials. He also urged to amend the Philippine Immigration Law of 1940 to allow him disciplinary powers.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, who led the upper chamber's hearing on the issue, maintained there is not enough evidence to tie Morente to the scheme.