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

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

Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - March 2, 2020 - 4:18pm

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.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: November 6, 2020 - 1:06pm

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.

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."

September 21, 2020 - 3:48pm

The Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality will resume its investigation into alleged bribery at the Bureau of Immigration on Tuesday, September 22.

"While significant inroads have been made and some erring employees of the Bureau of Immigration have been held to account before the law, the big fish have not been caught," the Office of Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who chairs the committee, says in an announcement of the resumption of hearings.

March 4, 2020 - 4:39pm
The 'pastillas' bribery scheme at the Bureau of Immigration includes allowing fugitives into the country for a fee, Sen. Risa Hontiveros says Wednesday.
"Napag-alaman natin na parte din ng ‘pastillas’ scam ang VIP treatment of blacklisted fugitives. These criminals pay more than the P10,000 ‘service fee’ and are allowed entry into the Philippines," she says in a press release.
"Klarong klaro na napakarami nang kriminal na nakapasok sa bansa ngayon, no thanks to our corrupt BI officials. They welcomed these criminals with open arms and set up and enabled this ‘pastillas’ system to persist," she also says as she calls on authorities to track down those who slipped past the bureau and deport them.
February 27, 2020 - 9:52am

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente implements a "total revamp" in NAIA Terminals 1, 2 and 3 as part of the Bureau's "continuing reform and transformation efforts."

"The revamp covers all personnel assigned to NAIA terminals from Port Operations Division (POD) Deputies, Terminal Heads down to counter personnel, except Chief, POD which will be decided by [Department of Justice]," he adds in a statement.

"This practice of rotating and changing assignments on a regular and programmed basis is both a means to enable better performance and encourage skill upgrades, as well as a necessary precaution against possible avenues for graft and corruption," he also says.

President Rodrigo Duterte last week ordered the relief of BI personnel believed to be involved in the "pastillas" scheme.

  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with