Ombudsman probes execâs link to âpastillas scamâ
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) last month filed a graft complaint at the Office of the Ombudsman against 19 officials of the BI allegedly involved in the pastillas scam, which allowed the unchecked entry of foreigners, mostly Chinese, into the country in exchange for bribe money.
Philstar.com, File
Ombudsman probes exec’s link to ‘pastillas scam’
Elizabeth Marcelo (The Philippine Star) - October 24, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines  — Ombudsman Samuel Martires has ordered an investigation on the claim of whistle-blower Jeffrey Ignacio that the alleged mastermind of the so-called “pastillas” scheme, wherein Chinese nationals allegedly pay Bureau of Immigration (BI) officers to easily enter the country, has a “contact” in the Office of the Ombudsman.

“Yes, yes, we are investigating this, though the problem is that the claim is unsubstantiated, we have no lead. Everyone will become a suspect. Even the ombudsman (referring to himself) will become a suspect,” Martires said.

Ignacio, a self-confessed member of the pastillas group, disclosed in a recent Senate hearing that BI deputy commissioner Marc Red Mariñas, one of the alleged masterminds of the gang, earlier bragged that he has a contact in the ombudsman who could help in the case.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) last month filed a graft complaint at the Office of the Ombudsman against 19 officials of the BI allegedly involved in the pastillas scam, which allowed the unchecked entry of foreigners, mostly Chinese, into the country in exchange for bribe money.

Ignacio, who holds the rank of Immigration Officer II, was among those charged before the ombudsman.

He, however, was recently admitted into the Department of Justice’s Witness Protection Program (WPP) to testify at the NBI and Senate investigations.

Martires admitted that Ignacio’s claim seems doubtful as only the employees of the ombudsman are allowed to enter the office premises since the imposition of the community lockdown in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Since March we started imposing stricter policy. Only our employees are allowed to enter the office premises, and before one can enter, he has to present his ID. He must also be included in the official list of employees scheduled to report for work for that day,” Martires explained.

“I’m not saying that Mariñas has no contact, all I’m saying is that it seems impossible for him to enter our premises. But if Mariñas has a contact in the ombudsman, according to Ignacio, then let Ignacio identify who that person is, give us a lead. Don’t be unfair to the employees of the ombudsman,” Martires added.

Nonetheless, Martires said he had already ordered that all the logbooks from the time of the lockdown in March to be made available to the NBI, as requested by the latter.

Martires said close-circuit television (CCTV) footage in the ombudsman premises will also be furnished to the NBI.

“We are hoping to get more information with the continuation of the Senate investigation led by Senator (Risa) Hontiveros. But definitely, we look into Ignacio’s claim,” Martires said.

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