The Office of the Ombudsman has ordered the implementation of 6-month preventive suspensions for 83 Bureau of Immigration (BI) officers who are facing a slew of criminal charges allegedly involved in the multi-billion peso “pastillas” scheme.
The pastillas scheme was exposed – with the help of whistleblowers Allison Chiong and Jeffrey Dale Ignacio – during hearings conducted by the Senate committee on women and children (led by Sens. Risa Hontiveros and Imee Marcos) to be one big racket that enriched certain officials of the BI thru the trafficking of millions of people at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
Hontiveros claimed that at least P30 billion in bribes were generated in the pastillas scheme which came about when the Visa Upon Arrival (VUA) program was created during the early part of the Duterte administration.
“This office finds that there is sufficient ground to preventively suspend all the respondents considering that there is strong evidence showing their guilt,” Ombudsman Samuel Martires said in the order.
They are facing charges for grave misconduct, gross dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, which may result in their dismissal from the service.
Hontiveros noted, however, that the names of the alleged ringleader of the pastillas scheme together with his father (who was supposedly romantically involved with a former top-ranked BI official) are nowhere to be found in the list of respondents as they are no longer connected with the BI.