Aguirre tagged as 'protector' of 'pastillas' racket, denies accusations

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Aguirre tagged as 'protector' of 'pastillas' racket, denies accusations
In this file photo take February 2017, then-Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II listens as the Commission on Appointments defers his confirmation following objection by then-Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV.
The STAR / Geremy Pintolo, file

MANILA, Philippines — Columnist Ramon Tulfo tagged former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II as the supposed protector of Immigration officials involved in the “pastillas” racket, an allegation the former DOJ chief denied.

 At the Senate inquiry into corruption at the Bureau of Immigration, Tulfo, citing information from whistleblower Allison Chiong, accused Aguirre of being the “protector of the syndicate” operating the “pastillas” scheme.

“He castrated the powers of [Immigration] Commissioner [Jaime] Morente. The power to hire and fire and reassign Immigration personnel should be laid on the responsibility of Mr. Morente,” Tulfo said in a mix of English and Filipino.

He said that Aguirre removed the powers from the Immigration commissioner and “arrogated the power onto himself, the power to assign and reassign Immigration personnel.”

Tulfo also pointed out that it was Aguirre who appointed Maynard Mariñas as chief of Special Operations and Communications Unit and son, Marc Red Mariñas as then-Port Operations Division chief.

Tulfo also accused the father-son tandem of riding a chopper to Mulanay, Quezon to hand over money to Aguirre, an allegation contained in his July 2019 column at the Manila Times.

Speaking to the Senate panel, the younger Mariñas denied the columnist’s accusations and said he only rode the chopper once, going to San Narciso, also in Quezon.

He previously denied knowledge of the “pastillas” racket, which lets Chinese nationals have “seamless entry” into the country for a fee, but admitted to “irregularities” at the bureau.

Aguirre to sue Tulfo, again

Former Justice chief Aguirre vehemently denied Tulfo’s allegations and said he will file new cases against the columnist.

“The charges of Ramon Tulfo are absolute lies and a complete fabrications [sic] of Tulfo,” Aguirre told Philstar.com in a text message.

Aguirre slapped Tulfo with several libel cases before the Manila Regional Trial Courts over allegations contained in the latter’s column.

“Anywhere, I could face anybody for I am completely innocent of his charges,” Aguirre also said.

He also said that he will write to Sen. Risa Hontiveros that he may be invited to attend the next Senate hearing “so I could refute them and tell Tulfo to his face that he is a liar.”

Hontiveros said that the panel will invite Aguirre in the next Senate hearing.

Aguirre added: “He (Tulfo) wanted to get back at me because I did not grant his request to consolidate the more than 70 [Iglesia ni Cristo] cases in Manila because he was complaining of inconveniences and expense travelling throughout the country to answer the INC complaints.”

The former Justice chief did not expound on his accusation against Tulfo.

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As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: September 10, 2022 - 10:20am

Bookmark this page for updates on the alleged money-making scheme called "pastillas" racket, which facilitates the entry of Chinese tourists who later work in Philippine offshore gaming operators in exchange for grease money.

September 10, 2022 - 10:20am

Sen. Risa Hontiveros commends the move of the Sandiganbayan to drop criminal charges against “pastillas” scam whistleblower Jeffrey Dale Ignacio, and to admit him as state witness against high-ranking immigration officials involved in criminal activity.

"Jeffrey’s detailed and valuable testimony has helped shine a light on the almost-institutionalized corruption in the BI, and helped identify some of the ‘big cats’ involved in this multi-billion peso racket. As a state witness, I hope his testimony will provide a big boost to the prosecution of these erring officials and employees," Hontiveros says.

June 10, 2022 - 2:14pm

The DOJ says it fired found eighteen (18) officers and employees of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) after it found them administratively liable for grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, in relation to the so called “Pastillas Scheme."

June 10, 2022 - 2:14pm

The DOJ says it fired found eighteen (18) officers and employees of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) after it found them administratively liable for grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, in relation to the so called “Pastillas Scheme."

November 6, 2020 - 1:06pm

Sen. Risa Hontiveros, chair of a Senate panel that has held hearings on the 'pastillas' bribery scheme at the Bureau of Immigration, welcomes the filing of raps against former BI ports chief Marc Red Mariñas and 85 others.

"I especially would also like to express my fiercest gratitude to Dale Ignacio and Alex Chiong, whose testimonies have been critical in identifying Mariñas as the ringleader of the scheme. Hindi madali ang tumindig laban sa korapsyon at lumaban sa mga kriminal na nagsasamantala ng ating mga institusyon," she says.

She says, however, that the panel will dig deeper into what she says is "a festering pool of corruption in the BI, and potentially, in other institutions as well."

Hontiveros adds: "Naniniwala ako na may mas malalaking pangalan pa ang sangkot dahil sa laki, lawak, at lalim ng mga illegal business venture na ito na nakapalibot sa Visa Upon Arrival scheme at human trafficking ng mga Pilipina palabas ng Pilipinas." 

October 28, 2020 - 8:54am

"The six-month preventive suspension without pay imposed on 44 Bureau of Immigration personnel and officials involved in the 'pastillas' scam is a welcome and necessary development in our Senate investigation," Sen. Risa Hontiveros says.

She notes however that Jeffrey Dale Ignacio, a whistleblower in the Senate hearings on the alleged bribery scheme at the bureau, is among those suspended.

"I hope the Ombudsman can consider reversing this order against Dale as his testimony, which completed the picture of the corrupt system in the BI, has been invaluable in our Senate probe as well as the NBI’s own investigation." 

She adds: "Nonetheless, I would like to thank Ombudsman Samuel Martires for acting on the results of our investigation, and I trust that his office will also go after the big fish — including those who are no longer in the BI and cannot be the subject of preventive suspension."

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