Go: Don’t wait to be fed stolen money
Cecille Suerte Felipe (The Philippine Star) - October 7, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Bong Go has warned some Bureau of Immigration (BI) officials and employees involved in the so-called pastillas gang purportedly extorting money from Chinese nationals in exchange for easy entry into the country, not to wait to be fed with the actual money they had stolen.

Go issued the warning as another whistle-blower, Immigration Officer II Jeffrey Ignacio, corroborated the earlier testimony of Immigration Officer Alex Chiong, who exposed the pastillas gang’s operations at the airport during a public hearing of the Senate committee on women, children, family relations and gender equality chaired by Sen. Risa Hontiveros.

“It’s frustrating. To those involved and accomplices in the anomaly in the Bureau of Immigration, do not wait to be fed with the pastillas money that you have stolen,” Go said in his manifestation.

“Early this year, this pastillas scheme was brought to light. It’s already October, and it would seem that the masterminds behind this deceitful act of corruption have not yet been made to pay for their transgressions. What’s worse is that the very people who have the responsibility of putting these criminals behind bars are themselves involved in dirty dealings,” he added.

The senator recalled that in 2016, the BI removed the express lane extra pay but President Duterte and Go himself as a special assistant to the president helped the affected BI employees by providing augmentation pay.

“The President even wants to increase your salary so that you will not be involved in any corrupt practices,” Go said.

“I still believe that there are more sensible people out there in the Bureau of Immigration, so let’s not let these rotten employees there infect employees who just want to serve our fellow Filipinos,” he added.

The senator is urging his colleagues to continue helping the administration in cleansing government.

“If you see any corruption, let’s bring it out here. Our President has only less than two years remaining in office and I hope we will continue to work together to finally eradicate corruption,” he said.

“Let us work together to get to the bottom of this. We need a whole-of-government, whole-of-nation approach to put an end to corruption in order to give our countrymen and women the kind of service they truly deserve,” he added.

Go challenged Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and BI Commissioner Jaime Morente to cleanse the bureau as he vowed his full support for them.

Another whistle-blower

During the Senate hearing yesterday, Ignacio, who described himself as a foot soldier like Chiong, gave more details about the operations of the pastillas gang, where Chinese nationals were allowed seamless entry into the country for a “service fee” of P10,000 per individual.

Ignacio said he and Chiong were considered foot soldiers and frontliners who were given P5,000 to P20,000 weekly or every two weeks.

“Alex Chiong’s statement about the pastillas gang is true. Once the passenger is on the list sent to the Viber group chat, we just stamp their documents without question just like a (very important person). If you are not on the list and have any doubts, we refer to the travel control and enforcement unit, which will conduct further verification. And when the Chinese being held has visa upon arrival or VUA, it will automatically enter without asking,” Ignacio added.

Ignacio was one of 20 individuals – 19 immigration officers and an owner of a travel agency – who are allegedly involved in the scheme. He told the panel that he decided to testify to clear his name.

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