18 PH immigration officers suspended over extortion

Robie de Guzman   •   April 9, 2019   •   2928

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) has ordered the suspension of 18 Bureau of Immigration (BI) officers and employees for allegedly extorting P9.2 million from South Korean nationals.

DOJ spokesperson, Undersecretary Markk Perete said Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra issued an order for the suspension of 18 immigration personnel for 90 days, pending investigation on the charges against them.

“The Justice Secretary, after evaluating the sworn statements of the Korean nationals as well as the documentary evidence provided by the BI, found a prima facie case against said officers and employees for grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service,” Perete said in a statement.

The order came after BI Commissioner Jaime Morente himself asked the DOJ to suspend the said immigration agents accused of extorting from 15 Korean nationals who were apprehended last March 6 in Angeles City, Pampanga for alleged overstaying.

The Koreans were allegedly forced to give out money which amounted to P9.2 million under threat of detention.

“The Secretary also ordered them to submit their respective answers within seventy-two (72) hours from receipt of the formal charge issued against them,” Perete said.

He added that the DOJ is currently evaluating the proper course of action as regard with the job order contractors who allegedly participated in the extortion incident.

In line with the probe, a fact-finding panel has also been formed by the BI to verify the allegations against its 18 personnel. The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is also conducting a separate probe for possible filing of criminal charges.

Usec. Perete said the BI agents may face dismissal from government service, depending on the findings of the investigation.

“If they are found guilty, they may be terminated from employment with loss of all benefits and prohibition from engagement in government,” Perete said. – Robie de Guzman

More than 1,200 BI frontliners to get COVID-19 vaccine

Robie de Guzman   •   April 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Friday announced it will roll out the COVID-19 vaccination for its frontline workers this weekend.

In a statement, Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said they are looking to inoculate a total of 1,250 immigration personnel starting this April 24 to 25.

Immigration personnel eligible for vaccination will receive government-procured Sinovac’s CoronaVac jab, which will be administered in two doses in an interval of 28 days.

A pre-screening will be conducted on the medical history of the officers to determine those who are eligible to receive the vaccine.

“We have scheduled vaccination of our eligible employees on a weekend so as not to hamper our daily operations,” Morente said.

Adhering to the priority list given by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), the BI will start vaccinating employees who are senior citizens and persons with co-morbidities.

“The continuous rise of COVID-19 cases accentuates the need to vaccinate our frontliners, especially those belonging in the most vulnerable group such as the seniors and persons with co-morbidities. We want to assure their safety from the threat of the deadly virus,” Morente shared.

BI Deputy Commissioner and Chairperson of the bureau’s COVID-19 Task Force Aldwin Alegre said that despite vaccine rollout among immigration officers, they will continue to implement basic health protocols such as wearing face masks and face shields, maintaining physical distancing, and checking body temperatures.

“Our frontliners are one of the most exposed and have a high risk of contracting the highly transmissible virus. As such, we will continue to make sure that all health protocols are being followed,” Alegre said.

“I am confident that as our officers get their jabs, we will be able to carry out our mandate better and with less worry,” he added.

The BI has so far recorded 300 COVID-19 infections among its personnel.

DOJ confirms Facebook took down page behind malicious tagging

Aileen Cerrudo   •   April 22, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Justice – Office of Cybercrime (DOJ- OOC) has confirmed that social media giant Facebook has already taken down the page that was linked to the malicious tagging spreading online.

In the past few days, netizens are getting notifications about getting tagged to what seems to be an adult video. Upon clicking the link, it will then ask the user to install an update to watch the video in full which will prompt to automatically tag random Facebook users to the same post.

In a statement on Wednesday (April 21), the DOJ-OOC said it has raised the issue to Facebook APAC Legal Law Enforcement Outreach and received a report that the page has been removed. The administrators of the said page have also been sanctioned.

“As of this morning, 11AM of 21, April 2021, the DOJ-OOC received confirmation from Facebook APAC Legal Law Enforcement Outreach that the page associated to the malicious tagging has been removed and its administrators were sanctioned,” according to the statement.

The DOJ-OOC also encouraged the public to immediately report similar incident for immediate action. AAC

DOJ reiterates law enforcers should not interfere with community pantries

Aileen Cerrudo   •   April 20, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Justice (DOJ) has reiterated that law enforcement agents should not interfere with anyone doing good deeds which include setting up community pantries.

In a statement, DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra said a law enforcer should also not question individuals involved in community pantries unless they are violating laws.

“Suffice it to say that a person voluntarily doing an act of kindness and compassion toward his neighbor should be left alone,” he said.

“It is not proper for law enforcement agents to interrogate him unless there is reason to believe that he is violating any law, ordinance, rule, or regulation for the good or welfare of the community,” he added.

However, Guevarra refused to comment if police authorities violated the privacy act in gathering information about the organizers of community pantries. He also clarified that organizers are not required to fill out forms.

“Organizers of community pantries have no legal duty or are under any compulsion to fill out any forms, as these are not considered business, much less illegal activities,” he said. AAC (with reports from Dante Amento)

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