Mahal ko ‘yan’: Duterte stands by BI chief Morente amid ‘pastillas’ scam
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday stood by Bureau of Immigration (BI) chief Jaime Morente amid the so-called “pastillas scheme’ where immigration personnel allegedly receive bribes from Chinese nationals who enter the Philippines to work illegally in the country.
Speaking at the graduation ceremonies of the public safety officers’ basic and advanced courses in Davao City, Duterte vouched for the character of Morente, who was a former city police director of the President’s hometown.
“Kahapon I terminated all kay [Bureau of Immigration chief Jaime] Morente. Apparently, si Morente mahal ko yan kasi chief of police siya dito. Mabait yan,” Duterte said.
(Yesterday I terminated all Immigration personnel under Morente. Apparently, I love Morente because he once served as chief of police here. He’s kind.)
The President made the pronouncement just hours after Malacañang announced that he has ordered the relief of all officials and personnel involved in the alleged scam.
According to Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo, Duterte considers these actions as a “grave form of corruption.”
Duterte also lamented that Morente’s authority is “limited” against the extensive “pastillas” scam.
“Hindi niya kaya, limitado rin kasi…’Yung lahat sa NAIA file-an mo ng kaso tapos pinaalis ko na with the end view of dismissal,” he said.
(He can’t do it, his power is limited… Just file charges against the ones involved and I relieved them with the end view of dismissal.)
During a recent Senate inquiry on crimes involving Philippine overseas gaming operators (Pogo), Hontiveros bared the “pastillas” scam, which she said could very well have reached a total of P10 billion.
Under the “pastillas” operation, an arriving Chinese reportedly shells out a P10,000 service fee, of which P2,000 will be divided among officials of the BI’s Travel Control and Enforcement Unit, duty Immigration supervisor, and terminal heads. The rest of the amount will be given to tour operators and syndicates who will transport the Chinese from the airport to facilities of Philippine offshore gaming operations.
The scheme was called “pastillas” supposedly because the bribe money would be rolled in a bond paper like the wrapping of the Filipino milk candy.
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