ANNIVERSARY BASH AT IMMIGRATION: PNoy SCOLDS BI OFFICIALS


[PHOTO -ANNIVERSARY ‘BASH’ President Aquino and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima attend the Bureau of Immigration’s anniversary rites in Manila. LYN RILLON]

MANILA, SEPTEMBER 14, 2012 (INQUIRER) By TJ Burgonio - President Benigno Aquino was not in a congratulatory mood Tuesday when he was invited as guest of honor to the 72nd anniversary of the Bureau of Immigration (BI).

He blasted his hosts for “conspiring” in the escape of former Palawan Governor Joel Reyes and his brother Mario, and other criminal elements.

Mincing no words at BI’s main office in Intramuros, Mr. Aquino warned erring officials they would be dealt with the full force of the law.

“Let’s accept it: The Bureau of Immigration is one of the agencies embroiled in controversial issues in the past years. So pardon me if I take this opportunity to present matters that caused my dismay, and more importantly, our Boss’,” he began his speech aired over state-run dzRB.

Then Mr. Aquino rattled off some cases, including the December 2011 mysterious disappearance of Kim Tae Dong from St. Luke’s Medical Center who was ordered deported by the South Korean government for the embezzlement of $8 million; the escape of the Reyes brothers who are wanted in connection with the January 2011 ambush of environmentalist Gerry Ortega; and the entry of a cybercrime and human trafficking syndicate.

Mr. Aquino wondered how the Reyes brothers could have slipped out of the country on March 18 this year in the face of a “lookout bulletin” issued by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

“In instances like this, we expect those planning to escape to do everything to avoid ending in jail. They will not identify themselves as respondents in a case, as subjects of your watch list, and more so, they won’t turn themselves in to the authorities,” he said.

“It’s clear there was a conspiracy here, and there’s no excuse that will be acceptable,” he said of Kim’s “bubble-like” disappearance while under heavy guard by immigration agents. “Those found to have been negligent, and to have conspired: The law will make no distinction.”

Kim was taken to the hospital on Aug. 26, 2011, after complaining of hypertension, diabetes and abdominal pain. He was arrested on July 5 in Pasig City. A warrant for his arrest was issued by the Seoul South Korean court last April 8 after he was charged with cheating in a baccarat game on three instances in Seoul.

Efficiency required

“But if the Bureau of Immigration matches this with efficiency and close monitoring, whether they change their appearance, use other names, or doctor their documents, they’ll still get caught,” he added.

A witness has executed an affidavit saying he had driven Reyes, Coron Mayor Mario Reyes and their lawyer Hermie Aban to Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) where they boarded a flight for Vietnam in March purportedly with the aid of immigration officer Rodelio Udarde and security guard Wesley Gutierrez.

Authorities said Reyes left Naia on a Cebu Pacific flight on March 18, using a passport under the name of Joseph Lim Pe.

The witness, presented by jueteng whistle-blower Sandra Cam and former Solicitor General Frank Chavez, said he was a former driver of Udarde, a friend of lawyer Aban.

Immigration Commissioner Ricardo David Jr. has ordered the relief of Udarde and Gutierrez pending an investigation.

Months ago, the Philippine National Police dangled a P300,000 cash reward for any information leading to the arrest of the Reyes brothers on top of the P1.55 million previously offered by private individuals and groups.

In mid-August, the President raised to P2 million the bounty on the heads of the Reyes brothers, as well as the individual bounties on fellow fugitives, retired Major General Jovito Palparan, Globe Asiatique Realty Holding Corp. chairman Delfin Lee and former Dinagat Island Representative Ruben Ecleo Jr.

Sleeping on the job

[PHOTO -Former Palawan Governor Joel T. Reyes. Reyes & his brother are wanted for the death of broadcaster and environmentalist Gerry Ortega.  INQUIRER FILE PHOTO]

From the case of the Reyes brothers could be gleaned the “clear failure to do one’s job,” the President said, pointing out that the Reyeses were high-profile fugitives whose pictures had been released by the media, and yet managed to fly the coop effortlessly.

“Can this happen without conspiracy, and without anyone sleeping on the job? If these controversial individuals managed to elude the law enforcers, how much lesser known criminals?” he said.

The President also pointed to the roundup of 378 foreigners, believed to be members of a cybercrime and human trafficking syndicate operating in Taiwan and China, by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.

“The question now is: How did this many number of lawbreakers get into the country without being checked?” he said, pointing out that the bureau has failed to learn its lessons.

“Let’s see to it that the Bureau of Immigration does its job and ensure nobody like these people will set foot in the Philippines. Let’s remember that every error comes with a risk to the life and security of a fellow Filipino,” he said.

“Let’s fix our system. No matter how high-tech your agency’s equipment is, if under the table negotiations persist, our monitoring will be for naught. Those in the frontline defense are useless if they’re lax and slow to fight crooked schemes,” he said.

Overtime pay

On a demand for overtime pay, the President said that it’s part of the bureau’s job to help airlines assist tourists.

“Let me make this clear: We’re not setting aside your services. We continue to strive to ensure that you get your proper pay in accordance with the law. It’s not enough that we say that this is the old way of doing things. We can’t right a crooked system if we also justify our actions as an old, common practice,” he said.

“If we let a rotten system to persist, then naturally we will reap what is rotten. It’s in our hands to choose which path to take.”

Slain Radio Broadcaster's Ortega kin picket court Philippine Daily Inquirer 5:34 am | Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

[PHOTO -ORTEGA CASE Relatives and supporters of murdered Palawan environmentalist Gerry Ortega urge the Court of Appeals in Manila to uphold the arrest warrants issued by a lower court against the suspects, former Gov. Joel Reyes and his brother, Coron Mayor Mario Reyes. NIÑO JESUS ORBETA]

Family members and supporters of slain Palawan radio broadcaster and environmentalist Dr. Gerry Ortega on Monday held a picket on the Court of Appeals (CA) grounds in Manila to ask the appellate court to deny the appeal for dismissal of the suspects’ murder case.

Ortega’s daughter Mika led supporters and cause-oriented groups such as the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines in opposing the petition filed by former Palawan Governor Joel Reyes and his brother, former Coron Mayor Mario Reyes.

The Reyes brothers were charged in a Palawan trial court with the murder of Ortega in January last year. They have been in hiding since March this year and are believed to have fled the country.

“We would like to ask the court not to give in to the petition of the Reyes brothers to dismiss the charges against them at the Department of Justice and the warrant of arrest issued by the trial court,” Mika Ortega said.

“We can see they have a disrespect for our courts and our laws so why grant them relief?’” she said.

Ortega said reports reaching her family revealed that efforts were being made by the Reyes camp to “maneuver things” at the Court of Appeals (CA). Christine O. Avendaño


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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