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‘Pastillas’ scam: NBI nabs BI fixer

Marc Jayson Cayabyab (The Philippine Star) - February 23, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has apprehended a law firm employee for allegedly receiving P900,000 from three Chinese to facilitate their unchecked entry in the country.

Vivian Lara, said to be an employee of Calalang law office, was arrested in a sting after she reportedly received the marked money in the office of Bureau of Immigration lawyer Arnulfo Maminta at the BI headquarters in Intramuros, Manila on Thursday.

The Calalang law firm denied that Lara is their employee.

NBI special task force chief Gerald Geralde said the new scheme involves Chinese citizens giving bribe money in advance for the processing of their travel documents, after the alleged payoffs at the airports called “pastillas” scam was exposed.

The NBI will continue to look into alleged corruption in the immigration bureau, Geralde said.

“Why did BI officials allow the office of a legal officer for this illegal transaction?” Geralde said in an interview on ABS-CBN.

In a statement, the BI said it has banned Lara from entering its offices following the entrapment operation.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente has ordered a probe on the incident and backtracking of closed-circuit television footage to identify the fixer’s accomplices.

The BI has also suspended the accreditation of the law office, Morente said.

He added Lara used her expired identification card to enter the BI.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros urged the NBI to look into the involvement of travel agencies in the scam.

“Akala ko COVID-19 lang ang nagmu-mutate, pati pala pastillas scam,” Hontiveros said. “Travel agencies have been linked to corruption in the BI over the illegal entry of Chinese travelers. While we are in a pandemic, scammers are still having fun.”

The NBI has filed graft charges against 86 BI officers and personnel before the ombudsman for allegedly receiving bribes from Chinese.

The owner of travel agency Empire International Travel and Tours was among those charged. – Cecille Suerte Felipe

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