Justice chief sacks 20 immigration men

07/21/2010 - JUSTICE Secretary Leila de Lima ordered a 90-day preventive suspension to 20 personnel of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) at the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in connection to alleged human trafficking to Malaysia.

In a five-page memorandum, De Lima reversed the April 14, 2010 ruling of her predecessor, Alberto Agra, and approved en toto the recommendation of a panel of state prosecutors to administratively charge the erring immigration employees.

The issue stemmed from the testimonies of immigration agent Racel Ong.

De Lima likewise directed the prosecutors to immediately file charges of grave misconduct, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, dishonest, and gross neglect of duty against the suspects.

Covered by the suspension were Heranio Manalo, Janice de Jesus-Corres, Rey Alfred Hernandez, Robin Pinzon, Romeo Dannug, Jose Melendrez, Adonis Fontanilla, Ramon Lapid, Evelyn Marinduque, Misael Tayag, Gaile Frances, Leo Lugto, Ramoncito Barro de Guzman-Sanglay, Jacqueline Miranda, Arlene Mendoza, James Guevarra, Sheryll Manguerra, Ramonsito Nuqui, Luisito Mercado and Dante Aquino.

De Lima also directed Undersecretary Jose Vicente Salazar, chair of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking in Person, to proceed with the filing of administrative charges against the respondents.

She cited the motion for reconsideration filed by Ong of Agra's so-called "midnight resolution" dated June 28, 2010 dismissing the complaint for syndicated human trafficking against the 20 respondents.

Agra had rejected Ong's testimony, saying that she has an "axe to grind" against her former colleagues at the BI, especially it was Manalo who recommended her relief upon the filing of a separate criminal case against her.

But De Lima said the complaint against respondents was not based on rumor, hearsay or second-hand stories.

"It is first-hand personal knowledge of a former colleague who is presently facing criminal charges precisely for the same alleged syndicated activities, which she claimed has apparently become a daily fare at the DMIA."

She noted she reviewed the case upon the request of the Blas Ople Policy Center, who had been helping the trafficked women and children attain justice.

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