19 Immigration officers, personnel face graft raps over 'pastillas' bribery scheme
Immigration Officer I Allison Chiong, “pastillas” scheme whistleblower, told the Senate panel that the scheme started in 2016, when some Immigration employees “decided to offer VIP services for immigrants who are casino high rollers” to augment their salaries.
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19 Immigration officers, personnel face graft raps over 'pastillas' bribery scheme

Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - September 2, 2020 - 5:55pm

MANILA, Philippines — The National Bureau of Investigation filed graft complaints against 19 officers and personnel of the Bureau of Immigration over the money-making scheme to facilitate entry of Chinese nationals into the Philippines or the “pastillas” scheme.

In a statement on Wednesday afternoon, the NBI said it filed complaints for violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act before the Office of the Ombudsman against BI ports operations division acting chief Grifton Medina and other officers assigned at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport terminals.

They are:

  • Deon Carlo Albao
  • Fidel Mendoza
  • Abdulhafez Dela Tonga Hadjubasher
  • Gabriel Ernest Mitra Estacio
  • Ralph Ryan Macahilo Garcia
  • Phol Bendaña Villanueva
  • Abdul Fahad Guro Calaca
  • Danilo Caro Deudor
  • Mark Dollete Macababad
  • Aurelio Somero Lucero III
  • George Bituin
  • Salahudin Pacalda Hadjinoor
  • Chevy Chase Reyes Naniong
  • Jeffrey Dale Salameda Ignacio
  • Hamza Usudan Pacasum
  • Manuel Brillante Sarmiento III
  • Cherry Pie Payabyab Ricolcol
  • Er German Tegio Robin

The NBI also asked the Ombudsman to immediately place them under preventive suspension.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros first revealed the “pastillas” scam in the bureau in a legislative hearing into rescues of sexual trafficking victims in February.

The NBI also recommended the filing of violation of Article 212 of the the Revised Penal Code or the corruption of public officials charge against Liya Wu, believed to be the owner of Empire International Travel and Tours.

A separate complaint for qualified trafficking of persons was also filed against Immigration Officer Ignacio for recruiting a Taiwanese woman to work in the Philippines and facilitating her easy entry into the country despite only holding a tourist visa.

NBI agents rescued the Taiwanese national from an illegal online gambling operation on February 3.

The NBI said that the whistleblower said that immigration officers and personnel “conspired, confederated, mutually helped and aid one another in directly and indirectly requesting and receiving money, gifts, and other benefits, including sexual favors from trafficked foreign women.”

“These IOs/IPs allow foreign nationals entry in the country despite the absence of the necessary documents as required by prevailing Immigration rules and regulations in exchange of so-called ‘pastillas money’, it added.

BI welcomes filing of complaints

The immigration bureau for its part welcomed the filing of the complaints. “We are one with the campaign of the government to get rid of corruption and make those erring personel accountable before the court of the law,” Officer-in-Charge spokesperson Melvin Mabulac said.

He added that the bureau has since strengthened its monitoring in all international ports and extension offices. As of June 2020, CCTV installation in NAIA Terminal 3 has been completed, while in July, installation in NAIA T2 and Clark International Airport was also completed.

Installation at NAIA Terminal 1 meanwhile is ongoing.

“We encourage the public to help BI in the campaign against erring BI personnel by reporting through our hotline 8465-2400 or email us and send to immigPH@gmail.com,” Mabulac added.

Immigration Officer I Allison Chiong, “pastillas” scheme whistleblower, told the Senate panel that the scheme started in 2016, when some Immigration employees “decided to offer VIP services for immigrants who are casino high rollers” to augment their salaries.

RELATED: 'Not low wages': Lacson says greed, corruption are roots of 'pastillas' scheme

Following the investigation, the Immigration Officers Association of the Philippines called on "the government to eliminate all adverse conditions in the BI which are conducive to corrupt practices" as well as the enactment of "a law modernizing immigration policies and operations, as well as increasing salary scales and compensation of IOs and re-instituting their overtime benefits, among others."

BUREAU OF IMMIGRATION NATIONAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION RISA HONTIVEROS
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