EDITORIAL - Indicted, dismissed

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL - Indicted, dismissed

Following the indictment of 43 Bureau of Immigration personnel for graft over the so-called “pastillas” scandal, the Department of Justice announced Friday that it had dismissed 18 bureau officials and employees for involvement in the bribery scheme. The DOJ, which has supervision over the BI, found the 18 administratively liable for grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

The DOJ established that the 18 facilitated the arrival or departure of Chinese nationals, without undergoing the requisite BI processing, in exchange for money concealed in bond paper rolled up like pastillas or sweetened milk pastries. This was at the height of operations in the country of Chinese-run offshore gaming firms, which employed mostly young Chinese from the mainland to pitch online gambling to their compatriots. Some senators suspected that the scheme was also used for sex trafficking, with Chinese POGO workers as clients.

An infuriated President Duterte at one point summoned to Malacañang those suspected of involvement in the scheme and distributed to them pieces of paper in the shape of pastillas, although he didn’t push through with his threat to make them eat the paper.

The dismissal from the service, with more expected to follow, plus the criminal indictments must be accompanied by sustained aggressive efforts to put an end to such rackets. Criminal charges must be pursued against former BI officials who can no longer be dismissed from the bureau since they have already left the service.

“Facilitation fees” are collected by unscrupulous government employees to bypass red tape and generally slow service. The pastillas scheme is not unique; opportunities for collecting grease money are built into many government services. Plugging these opportunities for graft alongside catching and punishing those who engage in facilitation rackets can create a significant dent in the difficult battle against corruption.


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