Some P40 billion in bribes have been pocketed by certain corrupt personnel of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) from the so-called “pastillas scheme” during the past few years, the Senate was told.
Senator Risa Hontiveros – speaking last week during the continuing hearing of the Committee on women and children on money-making schemes in the BI – said the huge monies were derived from “facilitation services” offered by corrupt immigration officers for some 3.8 million persons being trafficked at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) under the Visa Upon Arrival (VUA) program since 2017.
The VUA, Hontiveros claimed, was simply one big racket designed to generate payola for BI officials in exchange for hassle-free arrivals and departures of travellers (mostly from mainland China) at the NAIA.
Hontiveros said the pastillas scheme was named after the local candy because the bribe money being distributed came in the same milky white paper it was usually wrapped in.
It was revealed during the hearings that the bulk of the arrivals from China were so-called tourists purposely hired for the ubiquitous Philippine offshore gaming operators (Pogos) that were permitted to open here by the cash-starved Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) under Andrea Domingo.
The stunning disclosures were based on the testimonies of whistleblowers Allison Chiong and Jeffrey Dale Ignacio, both Immigration officers.
Sen. Hontiveros alleged in the same hearing that retired BI officials Marc Red Mariñas, former chief of the BI’s Port Operations Division, and his father Maynardo Mariñas, who headed the Special Operations Communication Unit prior to his retirement, were among the purveyors of the pastillas racket.
Both vehemently denied the senator’s allegations during the same hearing.
Previously, Hontiveros and colleague Senator Imee Marcos reportedly agreed to cite in contempt several BI officers, including father-and-son Mariñas, for not heeding the Senate subpoena to attend the continuing hearing on the pastillas modus.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said it is planning to file the appropriate charges against more than three dozen BI officers in connection with the said racket based on the sworn testimonies of whistleblowers Chiong and Ignacio.
“Na-establish na ‘yung buong scheme,” according to NBI Special Action Unit chief Emeterio Dongallo Jr.
Photo: CNN Philippines