Despite Duterte's 'love,' Palace to review Morente's leadership of Immigration bureau

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 21 2020 01:04 PM | Updated as of Feb 21 2020 01:25 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte's Cabinet will still review the performance of Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente in light of bribery allegations hounding the Bureau of Immigration. file

MANILA- Malacañang will still scrutinize Commissioner Jaime Morente's leadership of the beleaguered Bureau of Immigration even after President Rodrigo Duterte said he "loves" the retired police officer.

Morente's performance will still be assessed and discussed in the next Cabinet meeting, Duterte's spokesman Salvador Panelo said Friday, following claims that several Immigration officers received payoffs from Chinese nationals who illegally entered the country to work in offshore gaming hubs.

"Everyone is not off the hook [but] the confidence [on Commissioner Morente] is there until a contrary statement is made by the President," Panelo said.

"It means that he (Morente) will be assessed--the performance," he added.

Panelo's remarks came after the President vouched for Morente's integrity. The Immigration official once headed the Davao Police regional office.

"Si Morente, ano mahal ko 'yan, kasi chief of police siya dito. Mabait yan. Hindi niya kaya, limitado pa rin kasi ano,” Duterte said during a speech in his hometown Davao City.

(I love Morente. He was the chief of police here. He is nice. He can't do it because there are limitations)

On Thursday, Malacañang announced that Duterte relieved all Immigration officers and employees who were involved in the so-called “pastillas” bribery scheme.

In the said scheme, the bribe is rolled inside a paper, wrapped like a Filipino milk-based candy, and then distributed to Immigration personnel, and Chinese and Filipino travel agencies.

The National Bureau of Investigation was also ordered to look into the bribery scheme, parallel with the Bureau of Immigration's internal probe.

As to Chinese nationals illegally working here in the Philippines, Panelo said the government would deport them.

"Basta yung mga iligal pababalikin natin sa pinanggalingan nila. Basta may iligal na ginawa, ang Presidente natin ipa[pa]tupad ang batas," Panelo said.

(Those who are illegally staying here will be deported. Those who do illegal activities will be dealt with the law.)