EDITORIAL - Pastillas
(The Philippine Star) - February 19, 2020 - 12:00am

Filipinos take pride in being hospitable, and all foreign visitors are welcome in this country. The threat posed by the 2019 coronavirus disease or COVID-19 is showing the impact on livelihoods and the economy of the absence of foreign visitors.

What is unwelcome is the anomalous entry of visitors. A person who enters a country under questionable or illegal circumstances will likely continue breaking the law. The illegal alien must be caught together with whoever facilitated the entry, and punishment must be imposed.

An ongoing Senate probe has unearthed an alleged racket involving the issuance of visas to Chinese citizens. The real reason for their entry is not tourism, but employment in the Philippine offshore gaming operator or POGO industry. A senator said corrupt immigration personnel charge P5,000 for a special work permit for a POGO employee.

As gleaned during the Senate inquiry, an average of P10,000 is paid by each Chinese worker for easy entry. The payment is made allegedly to Bureau of Immigration personnel, with the peso bills rolled up in white office paper for concealment in a manner similar to local milk pastries called pastillas. Surveillance video footage obtained by the Senate showed how the payoffs were handed over apparently to BI personnel and rolled up pastillas style at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. 

Yesterday, five BI officials assigned at the NAIA were relieved from their posts pending an investigation into the so-called pastillas racket. It’s not the first time that BI personnel have been implicated in anomalies, although previous scandals usually involved allowing foreigners facing criminal cases in the Philippines, including accused drug traffickers, to leave the country.

The relief of the BI officials and the ongoing probe should not be the end of this story, but the beginning of a purge in the Bureau of Immigration. It should lead to long-term structural reforms.

PASTILLAS
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