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45 Immigration officials ordered fired after scam

PHILSTAR

THE OMBUDSMAN has ordered the dismissal of 45 Immigration officials linked to an airport scheme that extorted money from Chinese nationals in exchange for a seamless entry to the country.

In a dismissal order dated May 27 and sent to reporters on Sunday,  Ombudsman Samuel R. Martires said the officials violated Bureau of Immigration rules. They were also ordered to pay a fine equivalent to a year worth of salary.

Mr. Martires said the workers acted “willfully and with a corrupt motive.”

On Friday, the Justice Department dismissed 18 Immigration officers based on its own investigation of the scam.

Justice Assistant Secretary Neal Vincent M. Bainto told reporters on Viber on Friday the officials had been dismissed for committing gross neglect of duty.

The Ombudsman earlier charged before the Sandiganbayan, the country’s anti-graft court, 43 Immigration officials connected to the scam with corruption.

Allowing foreigners to enter the country without stringent profiling and screening processes was to the “prejudice of the government and public interest,” according to the indictment document sent last week.

The rolls of money received by the agents were made to look like a Filipino treat called pastillas, from which the scheme got its name.

In 2020, Senator Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel led a Senate investigation of the scam. A whistleblower from the Immigration bureau testified at a hearing that the Chinese nationals involved in the scheme had been blacklisted from the country and entered through a “special arrangement.” — John Victor D. Ordoñez

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