Duterte: Suspend 18 immigration personnel for 'extorting' from Koreans

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the suspension of 18 Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID) personnel, including intelligence officers, accused of extorting millions from Koreans by "namedropping" Malacañang and former aide Bong Go.

The Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) had recommended the suspension to Duterte so that the personnel can be investigated.

The Chief Executive's decision was announced by PACC Commissioner Greco Belgica on Monday, April 8, during a press conference in Manila. He had headed the probe into complaints from Korean nationals who were supposedly victimized.

"He (President Duterte) approved our recommendation. He even wanted to kick the officials out of anger," said Belgica in Filipino.

The accusations apparently merited even a meeting between Duterte and the accused. PACC had arranged the accused BID officers to meet with Duterte in Malacañang last Wednesday, April 3, but only 4 showed up.

Bureau of Immigration Deputy Commissioner Aldwin Alegre said the 18 personnel are already suspended for a period of 90 days and that a "fact-finding investigation" will be conducted to verify the claims about their extortion activities.

If the probe finds them guilty, the personnel will be dismissed and the BI will submit a recommendation to the Department of Justice on the filing of appropriate charges.

'Fundraising for Bong Go campaign'

Duterte does not always meet with persons being investigated by the PACC for corruption. But this case appeared to merit his personal attention because of its connection to his former aide Go.

The Korean nationals who complained claimed that the BID personnel were demanding money from them because they were "fundraising" for Go's senatorial campaign.

"Tinakot sila na huwag magsumbong na sa Malacañang dahil nga Malacañang ang nagfu-fundraising. Wala hong katotohanan 'yun. Kasinungalingan po 'yun. Galit na galit ang Pangulo doon, galit na galit si former secretary Bong Go doon dahil pati siya dinamay," said Belgica.

(They were told not to complain to Malacañang because Malacañang is the one doing the fundraising. There's no truth to that. It's a lie. The President was very angry, former secretary Bong Go was very angry because even he was dragged in.)

The BID officers supposedly arrested 15 Koreans even if they presented visas and other documents. The arrests were in violation of their "mission order" to arrest only foreigners without proper documents.

The foreigners were subsequently released by the same officers, also in violation of immigration processes.

The 15 Koreans who paid up supposedly gave varying amounts – P900,000, P1 million, P280,000 were the amounts mentioned.

The PACC said this modus operandi may have been used to victimize other foreigners, including Chinese and Japanese.

To prevent more extortion, the BI plans a "revamp" of the bureau's intelligence department. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.