Bad eggs still with Bureau of Immigration?

December 04, 2018

COFFEE shops are filled with tales that the Department of Justice is quietly investigating two police officers assigned to the Office of the Commissioner and another lawyer in the Bureau of Immigration for alleged involvement in a syndicate behind the upsurge in illegal Chinese workers  who were issued working visas after entering the Philippines as tourists.

Talks had it that Labor Secretary Silvestre “Bebot” Bello III asked Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to investigate the two police officers and an immigration official because they were allegedly behind the facilitation of the issuance of 9G or working visas for the Chinese workers, allegedly without the knowledge of their boss Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente.

Immigration officials last week reported in a Senate discussion that the BI has issued special working permit (SWP) to 119,000 Chinese nationals, who entered the country using tourist visas. The issuance of the special working visas without going through the necessary processes or being bound by restrictions from the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) allowed the Chinese nationals to work in the country for three to six months.

The Senate labor committee chaired by Senator Joel Villanueva initiated an investigation after DoLE officials discovered that dozens of Chinese nationals were working on Chinese-funded  infrastructure projects without securing the required  DoLE permits.

He noted the BI should have no jurisdiction in issuing work permits since only DoLE has the “technical knowledge” to assess if allowing foreigners to work here will be detrimental for local workers.

Sources from the Department of Justice said Secretary Guevarra ordered the investigation of the two -- Atty. Alex Recinto, Technical Assistant of Jess Castro, Chief of Staff of Commissioner Morente, and a certain Attorney Maminta also in Morente’s office -- to determine their possible involvement in the syndicate behind the apparent irregular issuance of working visas to more than 100,000 Chinese nationals.

The DoJ is also investigating allegations that the 9G visas were being processed in the BI’s office in SM Aura in Taguig instead of in the BI’s central office in Intramuros.

The two police officers were said to have been under scrutiny already over the issue of double compensation because they allegedly received salaries as Morente’s aides and PNP personnel. Their promotion from their rank of police major when they entered the BI to colonel early this year also became controversial because of the rule that police officers cannot be promoted when detailed to another agency.

The tips also suggested that both Recinto and Castro were close aides of disgraced PNP chief Alan Purisima, who was suspended for a graft case during the Aquino Administration but still undertook major security operations like the failed Mamasapano operation against Islamic terrorist-bomber Zilkipli Abdir alias Marwan when 44 PNP Special Action Force (SAF) commandos died in gunbattle with local Islamic rebels. It was discovered that Purisima directed the operations without the knowledge of the acting PNP chief at that time nor the head of the Department of Interior and Local Governments.

Two weeks ago, reports said two police officers were also implicated in the P5-billion shabu smuggling in the Bureau of Customs -- sacked PDEA deputy chief Ismael Fajardo, and dismissed PNP Senior Superintendent Eduardo Acierto. All were in active service when the controversial shipment arrived in Manila.

According to sources, Guevarra is incensed that his campaign to rid the DoJ of all the illegal and controversial activities is being sullied by the continued activities of syndicates that prey on foreigners in the BI.

The BI had been in the center of controversy under the Duterte Administration when Immigration Deputy Commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles, were videotaped in a hotel receiving bags of bribe money from lawyers of gaming tycoon Jack Lam.

The involvement of the two deputy commissioners, who had already been fired by President Duterte, was the first controversy that somehow stained the credibility of President Duterte’s avowed campaign against corruption in government as it showed even his own appointees, fraternity brothers in Lex Taliones even, were involved in corruption.

Sources said DoJ Secretary Guevarra was angry that corruption could continue unabated in the BI despite the controversy that involved the two former deputy commissioners and the embarrassing way they were found out and booted out of office by the President himself, with the help of Guevarra and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.