Aguirre dares Tulfo: File complaint over immigration 'pastillas' scheme

Aguirre dares Tulfo: File complaint over immigration 'pastillas' scheme
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 — Former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Tuesday denied allegations that he acted as a protector for immigration officials who facilitated the so-called "pastillas" scheme. 

The racket, which was first bared by Sen. Risa Hontiveros in February, allegedly involved officials of the Bureau of Immigration ensuring the "seamless entry" of Chinese nationals into the country for a "service fee" of P10,000. 

At a Senate hearing in March, columnist Ramon Tulfo accused Aguirre of being the “protector of the syndicate” operating the “pastillas” scheme, citing information from whistleblower Allison Chiong. 

"I am here today not only to directly refute the accusation of Ramon Tulfo that I am the head of the syndicate of the so-called 'pastillas' scheme, but to prove this accusation is utterly devoid of basis," Aguirre said on Tuesday as the Senate Committee on Women and Children resumed its probe into the link between the scam and the rise of prostitution in the country.

“I, therefore, challenge Mr. Tulfo, if you have ‘the goods,’ file the corresponding case and face me before the proper forum. You have absolutely no right to use this august body to malign and discredit me or bring dishonor to my family,” he added. 

Aguirre said that Tulfo's allegations against him are "fueled by vendetta dirty politics." 

Tulfo previously pointed out that it was Aguirre who appointed Maynard Mariñas as chief of Special Operations and Communications Unit and Mariñas' son Marc Red as then-Port Operations Division chief. The father-son tandem have been named as the alleged masterminds behind the "pastillas" racket. 

On March 2, Tulfo accused the Mariñases of riding a chopper to Mulanay, Quezon to hand over money to Aguirre, an accusation also contained in his July 2019 column in the Manila Times.

On Tuesday, Tulfo showed senators pictures of the helicopters which he alleged were used to deliver duffle bags of money to Aguirre. 

He also claimed that former BI Deputy Commissioner Marc Mariñas was one of the individuals who delivered money to Aguirre's beach house. 

"Assuming for the sake of argument that I was receiving part of said 'payola,' why would I let my share be flown from Manila to Mulanay, Quezon, by a chopper?" Aguirre said in response. 

"This manner would not only attract attention from people of said small and remote town but also would alarm my political enemies... I would certainly opt for a more discreet way of receiving my share of the purported loot, if indeed true," the former justice secretary further argued. 

Tulfo and Aguirre's exchange soon turned into a trade of insults, with the columnist saying that Aguirre, a law school classmate and fraternity brother of President Rodrigo Duterte, was replaced by the chief executive as justice secretary due to his incompetence. 

The former chief justice fired back that he resigned from the post, to which Tulfo countered that he was "made to resign." 

Aguirre previously slapped Tulfo with several libel cases before the Manila Regional Trial Court over allegations made in his column.

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