The Bureau of Immigration on Monday will investigate an alleged money-making scheme to facilitate the entry of Chinese nationals into the Philippines involving bureau officials and staff.
The STAR/Rudy Santos, File
Hontiveros recommends lifestyle check of Immigration personnel for 'pastillas' operation probe
( - February 18, 2020 - 10:47am

MANILA, Philippines — A lifestyle check among Bureau of Immigration personnel may help determine who are involved in the money making scheme involving receiving grease money from Chinese nationals entering into the country, Sen. Risa Hontiveros said.

Hontiveros, in a Senate inquiry Monday, bared that an Immigration informant told her about a scheme at the bureau involving a “service fee” of P10,000 being paid for “special treatment” by Chinese nationals entering the country.

The scheme is dubbed as “pastillas” as it started with money rolled in white office paper, similar to the how the local sweet milk candy looks like.

Hontiveros said a lifestyle check among Immigration personnel and officials is a “great” option to identify who benefit from the “pastillas” scheme that she said started with the boom of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) in the country.

The Immigration bureau on Monday afternoon started its probe into the money making scheme among BI staff.

The senator said the National Bureau of Investigation may conduct the lifestyle check with the Office of the Ombudsman or another executive or Constitutional body.

The lifestyle check, she pointed out, can “examine if the lifestyle of BI or other officers is the same as before the 'pastillas' operation started or has it changed drastically.”

“Because then we could link the causes and effects if this corruption of our Bureau of Immigration, our border guards, affected the standard of living or lifestyle [of certain personnel],” Hontiveros also said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Express lane for Chinese nationals

Hontiveros explained that “pastillas” operation “started a few years ago, the same time when the POGO industry boomed” and when there was an influx of Chinese nationals arriving in the country.

“The way my informant talks, [there was] some form of it was in place earlier. [Now] it was centralized, sort of seamless,” she added.

During Monday’s hearing, Hontiveros showed a video of an immigration officer apparently escorting Chinese tourists to a BI office at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 where the visitors’ names were being checked against a list held by a supervisor as well as screenshots of Viber messages of the names, photos and flight details of those escorted. — Kristine Joy Patag with report from The STAR/Paolo Romero

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