MANILA, Philippines — The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is conducting a lifestyle check and investigating the statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) of Bureau of Immigration officials and employees linked to the so-called “pastillas scheme” wherein Chinese nationals allegedly pay immigration officers to enter the country.
“We welcome this development in the case,” Bureau of Immigration (BI) spokesperson Dana Sandoval told reporters yesterday after the NBI found questionable the wealth of those involved in the anomalies.
There were reports that a BI official receiving a monthly salary of more than P32,000 had a net worth of around P27.9 million while a chief of staff with an item as security guard is earning more than P14,000 a month, but with net worth of P10 million.
The NBI had recently filed a complaint against 20 immigration officers allegedly involved in the pastillas scheme.
Sandoval said the agency has checked the SALN of those involved in the pastillas scheme, which were included in the committee reports they have submitted to the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The BI and the NBI are attached agencies of the DOJ.
Sandoval refused to provide copies of the SALN and the committee reports that the BI’s fact-finding team has submitted to the DOJ. The reports are now being used by the NBI in its investigation.
The NBI had invited the BI employees involved in the so-called pastillas scheme to explain their questionable wealth after it was found out that their salaries do not match with their lifestyles.
NBI deputy director Vicente de Guzman also confirmed that investigators have requested Ombudsman Samuel Martires to provide documents and closed-circuit television footage that could substantiate the allegations of whistleblower Jeffrey Ignacio that former BI deputy commissioner Marc Red Mariñas, the alleged mastermind in the pastillas scheme, has contacts in the Office of the Ombudsman.
“We have requested for the logbook to see who visited who and CCTV footage during such visits if there was any, which would back up the claim of Ignacio during the Senate hearing,”
He said Ignacio’s revelation would remain “hearsay” unless he comes up with something substantial.
De Guzman said Ignacio, a self-confessed member of the pastillas group, testified at a Senate inquiry on the multibillion modus at the BI.
NBI special action unit chief Emeterio Dongallo said the investigation is still ongoing and Ignacio’s SALN is also under scrutiny.
“There are ring leaders who would be implicated sooner or later, and charges will be filed. We are just being careful because we don’t want to squander all the hard work that we have exerted on this investigation,” he said.
Asked if Mariñas is now being investigated, De Guzman said, “he and some other people are included.”
He said Ignacio was the person who exposed the extortion operation that led to the arrest of NBI legal assistance section chief Joshua Paul Capiral and his brother Christopher John, a BI special agent, during an entrapment operation inside the bureau’s legal office last Sept. 21.
Prior to the entrapment, Ignacio and the Capirals met at a restaurant and decided to proceed to the NBI for the payoff.
He was among the BI officials earlier charged by the NBI with graft over the pastillas scheme.
At the Senate hearing, Ignacio claimed that Mariñas assured them during a meeting attended by all the accused that they have a contact inside the Office of the Ombudsman and “instructed us that all the things that were discussed there should not come out.” – Rey Galupo