President Rodrigo Duterte was able to verify the existence of the collection of unauthorized fees among Chinese nationals working in the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) through intelligence information.
Duterte made this remark after relieving all Bureau of Immigration (BI) personnel involved in what has been dubbed as the “pastillas” modus because the money was allegedly hidden in rolled bond paper, which is similar to the wrapper for the milk candy.
“I had it verified. There’s truth kaya ako sabi ko (that’s why I said), there’s no other way to do it except to suspend them and investigate them,” Duterte said in a recent interview over GMA’s 24 Oras.
On Thursday, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo announced that Duterte considers the unlawful act committed by relieved BI officials and employees as a “grave form of corruption.”
He said Duterte received reports about the unlawful activity and found probable cause to relieve BI personnel linked to the bribery scheme.
Despite controversy hounding the bureau, BI Commissioner Jaime Morente still enjoys Duterte’s trust and confidence.
In a speech in Davao City on Thursday, Duterte himself said he “loves” Morente, a former Davao police chief, because of the latter’s “kindness”.
Panelo, however, assured that Morente will not escape charges if the results of the pending investigation show he committed lapses in stopping the scheme.
In the same interview, Duterte vouched for the integrity of Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido, who is included on the drugs watch list since there is still no evidence that can prove his supposed links to unlawful narcotics trade.
“Malinis ‘yan si Espenido (Espenido is clean). He’s a victim of orchestrated effort to discredit him,” he said.
Espenido, the cop who led major anti-drug operations against big-time suspects, claimed that his inclusion in the drug watch list was a failure of intelligence.
He also suspected that intelligence information about his supposed links to illegal drugs was made by politicians who are attempting to get back at him.
Panelo reiterated that Espenido can avail of government protection if he feels his safety would be at risk after being tagged as among the 375 policemen involved in illegal drugs.
He said Duterte has no plan to dismiss Espenido.
Espenido was the police chief of Albuera, Leyte when the town’s mayor, Rolando Espinosa Sr., was killed in his detention cell in 2016. He was also the chief of police of Ozamiz, Misamis Occidental when the city mayor, Reynaldo Parojinog, was killed in anti-drug operation in 2017.
He made a name for himself for his contributions to the government’s crackdown on illegal drugs. (PNA)