The Visa-Upon-Arrival program, which has allegedly been the root of widespread corruption in the Bureau of Immigration, should be abolished immediately.
Since it was established in 2017, during the time of former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, Senator Risa Hontiveros the VUA has generated tens of billions of pesos in bribes and kickbacks for corrupt immigration officers.
The VUA was originally intended to facilitate the entry of Chinese nationals hired by POGOs (or Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators) sanctioned by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor).
Under the VUA, Chinese citizens may enter the country without passing through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) giving free rein to money-hungry Immigration officers to engage in corrupt activities, Hontiveros said.
But after a while, it degenerated into a huge criminal activity used for the trafficking of women primarily at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
The pernicious VUA (or pastillas scam) racket was exposed during a series of public hearings conducted by the Senate committee on women, led by Senators Hontiveros and Imee Marcos, which resulted in the indictment of at least 84 Immigration officers after a lengthy probe by the Office of the Ombudsman and the National Bureau of Investigation.
“It will be safer for everyone if all Chinese tourists enter the country using visas issued by the DFA,” Hontiveros was quoted as saying.
Photo: Daily Tribune