This is not the first time that Immigration officials are embroiled in bribery and corruption controversy.
Philstar.com/AJ Bolando, File
NAIA terminal heads lose posts amid investigation into Immigration bribery
Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - February 18, 2020 - 4:59pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Bureau of Immigration sacked officials at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport after a supposed “pastillas” bribery scheme where Immigration officials are accused of accepting money for “special treatment” of arriving Chinese nationals.

Immigration spokesperson Dana Sandoval said that the order for relief—they have been relieved from their posts but not terminated from the service—of “at least five personnel” of the NAIA was issued on Monday, the same day the bureau ordered an investigation into the alleged bribery scheme revealed at a Senate hearing.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente ordered a full-blown investigation to identify erring BI personnel involved in the “pastillas”—supposedly called that because bribe money was initially wrapped in paper like milk-based candy—operation.

Sen. Risa 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 that Chinese arrivals pay for “special treatment.” 

Sandoval however refused to identify the sacked officials, saying only that they were NAIA terminal heads and the chief of the travel control and enforcement unit.

“For prudence, I am unable to release the names of those relieved as they were removed from their posts due to command responsibility,” she said.

Sandoval added: “It might be best to wait for the results of the investigation of the fact-finding committee.”

Hontiveros: Immigration officials 'complacent or negligent'

During the hearing on Monday, BI officials denied knowledge of the "pastillas" scheme, but the Hontiveros was incredulous at their claim and said that they are either “complacent or negligent.”

This is not the first time that Immigration officials have been embroiled in bribery and corruption controversies.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra last month ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to investigate Bureau of Immigration employees supposedly working in human-trafficking schemes.

The investigation covers “facilitating the departure of Filipino tourists intending to work abroad especially in Kuwait and entry of foreign nationals to the Philippines, at the Clark International Airport, Puerto Princesa Airport and Kalibo International Airport.”

In July 2019, Guevarra also ordered the NBI to look into reports that some Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators have Immigration personnel escort Chinese nationals arriving with tourist visas but who eventually end up working in online gaming firms.

BUREAU OF IMMIGRATION NAIA RISA HONTIVEROS
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