Tagged in 'pastillas' bribery, Aguirre says Tulfo sister pushed for easy visas for Chinese nationals

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Tagged in 'pastillas' bribery, Aguirre says Tulfo sister pushed for easy visas for Chinese nationals
Former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said he is willing to attend the next Senate legislative probe into the "pastillas" racket.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman, File

MANILA, Philippines — Former Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II tagged former Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo, sister of columnist Ramon Tulfo, in the policy granting Visas Upon Arrival for Chinese nationals, a department directive supposedly used in the “pastillas” racket at the Bureau of Immigration.

Aguirre admitted in an interview with DZMM on Tuesday morning that he issued the department circular on VUAs, but stressed that it was a directive backed by several government agencies.

“As a matter of fact, I did that through follow ups and coordination with Tulfo’s sister, [former Tourism] Secretary Wanda Teo,” Aguirre said in a mix of English and Filipino.

“She did nothing but talk to me during Cabinet meetings [to push for it] so the performance of the Department of Tourism would improve,” Aguirre added.

Aguirre signed Department Circular 41, which granted VUAs to Chinese nationals engaged in business, foreign investors, athletes, delegates in conferences and temporary visitors who are members of a DOT and BI tour group.

Aguirre said that there are “many other agencies of government” that wanted the grant of VUA to Chinese nationals, but he did not identify these.

‘Pastillas’ racket

Sen. Risa Hontiveros, during the Senate panel hearing Monday, questioned the designation of father and son tandem Maynardo and Marc Red Mariñas to oversee VUA grants during Aguirre’s stint at the DOJ.

“Pastillas” racket whistleblower Allison Chiong claimed that the younger Mariñas took part in the bribery scheme that involved Immigration officers allowing “seamless entry” of Chinese nationals into the country for a fee.

Marc Red previously held the position of Port Operations Divisions chief while his father, Maynardo, was appointed to the Special Operations Communications Unit.

Tulfo meanwhile said that Aguirre is the “protector” of the syndicate while the the father and son hand a cut from the “pastillas” racket to Aguirre.

The former Justice secretary denied Tulfo’s allegations and called him a “pathological liar.” He said he wants to attend the next Senate hearing on the “pastillas” racket so he can confront Tulfo about it.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra for his part said that the National Bureau of Investigation has been probing Tulfo’s allegations and the “pastillas” modus since 2019.

“Any action will be based solely on competent evidence, irrespective of the identity or status of the subject,” Guevarra told reporters.

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