MANILA, Philippines—On orders of President Benigno Aquino III, at least six immigration officers are being investigated for allegedly helping a Korean fugitive slip out of the country on March 19, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said on Tuesday.
“The President has directed the Department of Justice to look into that and investigate and file charges against those found responsible,” De Lima said.
The President, she added, was “angry” over the incident because this was not the first time it happened.
De Lima met with Immigration Commissioner Ricardo David and BI intelligence chief, lawyer Ma. Antonette Mangrobang, to hear their explanation on how Korean national Park Sung-jung was able to leave the country despite being blacklisted and subject to summary deportation since June last year.
Park, however, was not able to escape from the law in his own country. He was arrested by Korean authorities as soon as his flight from Manila landed in Seoul.
After her meeting with David and Mangrobang, De Lima told reporters the Bureau of Immigration was investigating the case and had identified at least six immigration officers and personnel who may have been involved.
It’s all on tape
She said immigration officials showed her the closed circuit video that captured Park boarding a flight to Seoul at 1 a.m. of March 19. He boarded after the last call was made by the airline.
“The video clearly showed who were possibly involved, those who aided the subject to leave,” said De Lima. She said that while Park’s boarding pass was stamped by an immigration officer, his departure was not encoded in the computer database of the BI.
She said that aside from the six immigration officers, there were others who may be investigated like the hearing officer for the summary deportation order against Park and the hearing officer that allowed Park to be granted a working visa.
De Lima said Park was ordered deported in June last year because he was undocumented and deemed an undesirable alien. But the Korean was able to escape before he was to be deported.
Gets working visa
But on the day his summary deportation order was issued, the Bureau of Immigration issued him a working visa, De Lima said.
Initial findings by the BI showed Park’s names had been interchanged, hence his real name did not come up in the computer.
De Lima said this will be looked into because “most probably” the interchange of his names was done deliberately.
On Monday, Mangrobang said the immigration officer suspected of facilitating Park’s departure had been relieved of her post at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and was the subject of an investigation.
Ma. Roselle Sacendoncillo was recalled to the main office, Mangrobang said, after initial investigation showed she cleared Park’s departure on Philippine Airlines.
Park is wanted in his country in connection with a $25-million investment scam.
Korean authorities at Incheon International Airport arrested the fugitive upon his arrival from Manila but they reportedly expressed concern they were not alerted by Philippine immigration officials about Park’s departure. Reports from Christine O. Avendaño and Tina G. Santos