MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice will “thoroughly” evaluate if Immigration Officer Allison Chiong – the whistleblower in the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) bribery mess – can be fully covered under its Witness Protection Program (WPP).
“He (Chiong) will be evaluated thoroughly for the WPP before he could be considered for full coverage [of the program],”Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said on Friday, February 21.
Guevarra said that Chiong has been placed under provisional coverage of WPP, as requested by Senator Risa Hontiveros and Senate President Vicente Sotto III. (FAST FACTS: On becoming a state witness)
During a Senate hearing led by Hontiveros, Chiong revealed that under “pastillas scheme” – the modus in airports allowing Chinese workers of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) to enter the country seamlessly – about 90% of Bureau of Immigration (BI) officials received bribes. (LOOK: How syndicates, airport officials split P10,000 bribe from POGO workers)
The bribery scheme uncovered during the Senate hearings prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to fire all BI officials and employees allegedly involved in the illegal operation.
Duterte, however, spared Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente.
Asked to comment on Morente’s statement that he had reported such anomalies to the DOJ in the past, Guevarra said while cases reported to his department are referred to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), “the BI leadership should exert greater efforts to address the culture of corruption in the bureau.”
The DOJ chief also said that only undocumented Chinese workers who paid an escort “fee” to immigration officials “will be deported immediately.”
“But if they are legitimate, but were merely extended ‘escort service’ by some BI personnel for a fee, then it’s the latter who will be dealt with accordingly,” he said. – Rappler.com
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