Hontiveros urges NBI to charge masterminds of BI 'pastillas' scam
In this Sept. 22, 2020, photo, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, chairperson of the Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality, presides over a public hearing tackling Senate Resolution No. 131 or the Rescues of Sexual Trafficking Victims.
Hontiveros urges NBI to charge masterminds of BI 'pastillas' scam
Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com) - September 22, 2020 - 12:44pm

MANILA, Philippines — A lawmaker is calling on authorities to identify and file charges against the so-called big fish behind the “pastillas” scheme which allowed the unchecked entry of foreigners, most of whom were Chinese, into the country in exchange for bribe money.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday led the Senate Committee on Women and Children as it resumed its probe into the link between the "pastillas" scam and the rise of prostitution in the country. 

"We have seen in previous hearings that the 'pastillas' scam has resulted in prostitution and human trafficking not only of our women, but also of women from other countries," she said in Filipino, adding that trafficked women were found to be servicing Chinese workers of the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators industry.

"For the sake of our women and children, the masterminds of this 'pastillas' scam must be put behind bars," she said. 

Through this scheme, which was first bared by Hontiveros in February, officials of the Bureau of Immigration ensured the "seamless entry" of Chinese nationals into the country for a 10,000-peso "service fee."

"Many women and young people have been victims of corruption and greed in BI. Even our country has become a breeding ground for crime because of them. We will stop at nothing to identify the big fish, to bring the masterminds to justice," Hontiveros said .

Earlier this month, NBI filed charges against 19 BI officials and personnel, as well as one owner of a travel agency for their alleged involvement in the "pastillas" operation. 

Hontiveros said that while she welcomed the cases filed against these individuals, her sources, including whistleblower Allison Chiong, have warned that they are not the main architects behind the scheme. 

"The big fish have not been caught. The charges are not just for small-time, while the big-time is having fun," she said in Filipino.

Augirre dares Tulfo to file charges against him 

"There is disturbing evidence presented at our hearing involving big names in politics and government. This evidence should be examined and everyone involved should be held accountable," Hontiveros added. 

She was referring to supposed evidence bared by former Special Envoy for Public Diplomacy to China Ramon Tulfo in a February column wherein he tagged former Department of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II as one of the protectors of father and son tandem Maynardo and Marc Red Mariñas, who are the alleged masterminds of corruption in the BI.

Aguirre during the same hearing renewed his claim that he was innocent and challenged Tulfo to file cases against him over these allegations. 

He further accused Tulfo of being motivated by "personal vendetta and dirty politics." 

“Similarly, not an iota of evidence was presented during the previous hearings conducted by this committee linking me to the 'pastillas' scheme. Even Mr. Allison Chong, the alleged whistleblower, never once mentioned my name in the entire proceedings. It was only Mr. Tulfo who repeatedly mentioned my name sans any concrete evidence,” Aguirre said.

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