JUSTICE Secretary Menardo Guevarra has appointed 100 new officers to the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to fill up posts that were left vacant by employees who were either dismissed or suspended for their alleged involvement in irregularities.
"The BI really needs additional personnel to enhance our border control. That's why 100 new immigration officers have been recently appointed. They will also take the place of a large number of BI personnel who have been dismissed, suspended or otherwise disciplined for alleged involvement in various irregular or illegal activities," said Guevarra on Friday in a Viber message to The Manila Times.
Guevarra ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to look into the alleged involvement of BI officials and personnel, assigned at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and other major ports in human trafficking and escort services.
A top to bottom reshuffle of NAIA immigration officers was also implemented following the discovery of the so-called "pastillas scam", which was exposed by Sen. Ana Theresia "Risa" Honteveros at a Senate hearing.
Hontiveros also recently exposed the involvement of airport immigration officers to a human trafficking syndicate that sent underage girls, some as young as 14, to Syria using tampered passports.
At least 22 immigration officers are currently being investigated by a BI fact-finding team for their involvement in the illegal trafficking of Filipino workers to Syria.
According to Guevarra, the Department of Justice (DoJ) is now in the process of evaluating the initial report submitted by the BI about the alleged link of some immigration officers to human trafficking.
"This is a continuing investigation [by the BI board of discipline]. Some reports have actually been submitted to the DoJ for evaluation," said Guevarra, adding details of the initial report would be made public as soon as substantial bases have been established to proceed to a formal administrative investigation.
According to BI Personnel Chief Grifton Medina, 94 of the newly-hired immigration officers have a plantilla position under the Immigration Regulation Division, while six are under the Port Operations Division.
Medina said the 100 immigration officers are set to be deployed soon, upon submission of their required documents and completion of their extensive training on immigration laws, rules and procedures.
However, due to the pandemic, the new employees will have to be trained through virtual learning sessions instead of the usual face-to-face, stay-in classes at the BI's training academy in Clark, Pampanga.
The bulk of the new BI inspectors will be deployed to NAIA, the country's premiere port.