MANILA, Philippines – Eighteen personnel of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) were dismissed from service by the Department of Justice (DOJ) for alleged involvement in human trafficking and other irregularities at the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA).
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, in a resolution, reversed a ruling by her predecessor, Alberto Agra, in an administrative case and ordered the dismissal of Heranio B. Manalo, Rey Alfred Y. Hernandez, Robin S. Pinzon, Romeo F. Dannug, Jose G. Melendrez, Adonis V. Fontanilla, Ramon B. Lapid, Evelyn O. Marinduque, Misael M. Tayag, Gaile Frances B. de Guzman-Sanglay, Jacqueline F. Miranda, Arlene Mendoza, James G. Guevarra, Sheryll P. Manguerra, Ramonsito G. Nuqui, Luisito Mercado, Leo Lugtu, and Dante Aquino for grave misconduct, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, dishonesty and gross neglect of duty.
"After a careful evaluation of the arguments raised by both parties, this Department finds that there exists substantial evidence to support the complaint of Ms. Ong considering that the defenses presented by respondents are general denials, bereft of any compelling reasons to disregard the positive testimony of the witness,” the Order read.
The BI personnel were implicated by whistleblower Rachel Ong, also an immigration employee, in activities facilitating the exit of Filipinos to work abroad "even without the requisite overseas employment contract" and other illegal activities.
In a sworn statement, Ong revealed the 18 were "allowing passengers to enter and exit the country without E6 visas and other related travel documents, including those against whom ‘Hold Departure Orders’ and ‘Watch List Orders’ have been issued.”
They also reportedly allowed female tourists from China and Korea to enter the Philippines to work as entertainers without the requisite documents.
De Lima declared that the dismissal of the 18 immigration employees should serve as a fair warning to all, that the government is serious about its anti-trafficking campaign and violators shall be dealt with severely.
“We cannot and will not tolerate the presence of corrupt elements within our ranks who jeopardize our efforts in the war against human trafficking, and graft and corruption,” her Order read.