By Leonel Abasola

Senator Risa Hontiveros (File photo)

MANILA – Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday lauded the Department of Justice (DOJ) for ordering the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to stop granting work visas requested by fake companies.

Hontiveros made this comment as she expressed alarm over the reported BI’s issuance of work visas to fake corporations, which has allowed entry to thousands of foreigners.

“I do welcome the Department of Justice (DOJ) directive that orders the BI to stop granting work visas requested by fake companies. Isang mahalagang hakbang ito para matigil ang mga kababalaghan sa ahensya (This is an important step to stop anomalies in the agency),” the lady lawmaker said in a statement.

According to the DOJ, the BI has given out thousands of pre-arranged employment visas, called 9G, to foreigners allegedly employed in fake local corporations.

“This is a national security risk. Hindi natin alam baka mga sindikato at kriminal na ang mga nakapasok sa bansa. (We don’t know, syndicates and criminals might have entered already in the country),” Hontiveros said.

She said the entry of foreign nationals through fake corporations will be investigated in the Senate hearing.

“We also have information that these work visas are what foreign nationals use to work for Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators,” she added.

Hontiveros said this also reminds her of a series of hearings on the corruption scandal in the BI known as the “Pastillas Scam,” and said that the agency should do more to clean up its ranks.

She added that BI is still marred by controversies, four years after the Pastilla scam.

A number of ranking BI officers and employees were charged in court based on the committee report of Hontiveros.

“Why does it seem like nothing has changed? Kailan pa ba tuluyang maaayos ang BI? Ilang Senate hearings pa ang kailangan? (How many senate hearings, still we need” It is disappointing that the agency is front and center of this issue once again,” Hontiveros added.

PhilHealth rate hike suspension

Hontiveros also lauded Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa for appealing to the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to suspend the PhilHealth rate hike this year.

“The deferment of the implementation of the PhilHealth premium rate hike is not only considerate, but also sensitive to the economic burdens carried by our kababayan (countrymen),” she said in a separate statement. (PNA)