2 BI agents accused of aiding Reyeses’ escape face dismissal, criminal raps — BIBy Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—The two immigration officers who allegedly facilitated the departure of former Palawan Governor Joel Reyes and his brother, Coron Mayor Mario Reyes, would be dismissed from the service and criminally prosecuted if probers established that they aided the fugitives in fleeing the country, Bureau of Immigration Commissioner Ricardo David Jr. said on Thursday
David, in a statement, said that aside from relieving Rodelio Udarbe and Wesley Gutierrez from their posts at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3, he also required the two to explain in 72 hours why they should not be dismissed in connection with the departure of the two, who were tagged as masterminds in the killing of Palawan-based broadcaster, Gerry Ortega.
All BI personnel who were on duty at the Terminal 3 departure area on March 18, the date of the alleged escape, have also been issued memorandums ordering them to explain their whereabouts and observations on that day.
“I asked them to report if they had observed any anomalous or unusual activity at that time that might corroborate reports that BI personnel escorted the Reyeses before their flight,” he said.
The Whistleblowers Association led by Sandra Cam earlier exposed that the Reyes brothers escaped to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, on board Cebu Pacific flight 751.
Based on a supposed Cebu Pacific manifest Cam showed to the media, the Reyeses, along with their lawyer Hermie Aban, were seated near each other on the plane.
Cebu Pacific officials declined to answer queries on whether the manifest came from them or whether the document was authentic.
“Cebu Pacific does not authorize the release of a manifest unless there is a valid court order or a subpoena issued by a competent authority requiring the release of a flight manifest,” the airline said in a brief statement.
David said that after Ubarde and Gutierrez’s replies, they would be placed on preventive suspension during investigation.
The BI chief said he would ask the Office of the Ombudsman and the Department of Justice to investigate the employees and determine if they should be criminally prosecuted for the incident.
He said the criminal investigation would be separate from the administrative probe being instituted against the two airport immigration personnel Ubarde and Gutierrez.
David assured the public there would be no whitewash in the investigation, adding that Udarbe and Gutierrez would be punished with dismissal from the service and perpetual disqualification from government employment if the probe found them guilty of a serious offense.
BI spokesman Ma. Antonette Mangrobang, for her part, said the BI was awaiting the reply of its Vietnamese counterpart on a request for closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage and biometrics records of the Reyes brothers and Aban upon their arrival at the Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City.
She said the BI letter was addressed to the Vietnam’s ambassador here in Manila and sent more than a week ago but there was still no reply.
“We want to inquire if they have biometric records on the arrival of these three persons so we can verify and match with our own biometric records,” she said.
“May be they (Vietnamese immigration authorities) have CCTV footage of the arrival of [the Reyeses and Aban so we can determine if they took a connecting flight out of Vietnam and where was their next destination after leaving Vietnam,” she added.
David, meanwhile, branded as unfair calls for his resignation because of the Reyeses’ escape, saying he had been waging a serious and uncompromising campaign to eradicate corruption in the BI.
He said that in just 17 months that he had been in office, 36 employees were dismissed and 41 others were suspended for various offenses ranging from extortion, grave misconduct, human trafficking and conduct prejudicial to the interest of the service.
David stressed that it would take more time to purge the bureau of corrupt employees and professionalize its rank and file.