Airport immigration revamped after bribery scheme

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THE Bureau of Immigration has revamped workers at Terminals 1 to 3 of the international airport in Manila after the Senate uncovered a bribery scheme involving Chinese workers in local offshore gaming companies.

The bureau revamped its Port Operations Division deputies, terminal heads down to counter personnel upon the order of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, Immigration Commissioner Jaime H. Morente said in a statement on Thursday.

The reshuffle does not cover the division chief, whose fate will be decided by the Justice department, he said.

The changes in management responsibilities and section assignments at the Manila airport came after the “recent resurgence of unauthorized activities and irregularities” there, Mr. Morente said.

“These irregularities and their consequences impact on morale and detract from the professionalism and service that the men and women of the Bureau of Immigration are pledged to provide,” he added.

The agency relieved 19 officials and employees allegedly involved in a bribery scheme that allowed the illegal entry of Chinese nationals who end up working in offshore gaming companies here.

Mr. Morente said the Immigration workers’ privileges had been canceled. Sanctions will be imposed based on court findings, he added.

Senator Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel earlier showed a video of incoming Chinese nationals being escorted to an office at the international airport in Manila.

She also showed screenshots of Viber messages among Immigration officers discussing the bribery scheme, as well as a worksheet containing the P10,000 paid by each of the tourists.

An immigration officer earlier told a Senate committee some blacklisted foreigners had been granted entry for as much as P200,000.

The bureau earlier asked the Justice department and National Bureau of Investigation to probe corrupt practices at the airport, including human trafficking and escort services.

Immigration officials who attended Monday’s hearing denied knowledge of the scheme, prompting Ms. Baraquel to say that they were either complicit or negligent.

The Senate body was tackling the illegal entry of Chinese nationals who end up working in offshore gaming companies in the Philippines.

Some female workers had also been allegedly trafficked and forced to work as sex slaves.

Ms. Baraquel had told reporters it was unlikely that Immigration officials were ignorant of the illegal scheme. She said the government must order a crackdown against unscrupulous Immigration officials involved in the anomaly. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas