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A P10 billion scheme: Alleged ‘pastillas’ modus in BI exposed in Senate hearing

/ 10:58 AM February 17, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Corrupt immigration officials have allegedly received an estimated total of P10 billion “kickback” from Chinese nationals who were promised seamless entry into the country for a P10,000-service fee.

Senator Risa Hontiveros bared this when she led the resumption of the Senate investigation into crimes connected to Philippine offshore gaming operators (Pogos) on Monday.

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During the hearing, Hontiveros exposed the ‘pastillas’ modus within the immigration bureau which she explained is a system allegedly centralized by agency higher-ups.

The senator presented a video of an immigration officer escorting Chinese nationals to BI’s inner office, seemingly validating the Chinese nationals’ identity against a list with a supervisor.

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“Bakit parang may VIP escort itong mga Chinese nationals papasok ng bansa?” Hontiveros asked.

The Senator also showed screenshots of Viber groups containing names, flight details and photos of the “VIP” Chinese nationals.

“Ayon sa aming informant, ang bawat Chinese national, marami Pogo workers, ay naga-apply para sa tourist visas sa iba’t-ibang consulates natin sa ibang bansa. Pero dagdag sa kanilang visa fee, P10,000 na service fee paniguradong hindi ka masisisita sa immigration ng Plipinas at mayroon ka pang welcome committee,” she said.

“Sa P10,000 yan, P2,000 ang nakararating sa ating airport. Pinaghahatian sa level ng airport. So nasaan yung P8,000, ayon sa aming informant, distributed na bago pa man makarating sa airport,” she added.

Hontiveros said that according to her informant, the alleged P2,000-pay-off that trickles down to airport immigration officers are broken down into six parts.

Twenty-three percent of the P2,000 or P470 goes to the duty immigration supervisor; 32.5 percent or P650 to the immigration officer; 14 percent or P280 goes to the Travel Central and Enforcement Unit; 12 percent or P240 to the border control and intelligence unit; 13 percent or P260 to operations (admin or clerical workers) and five percent or 100 to the terminal head.

“Ayon sa aming informant, mas lumakas ang ganitong modus dahil sa libu-libong mga POGO workers na dumarating sa bansa araw-araw,” Hontiveros noted.

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“Nasaan na yung 8,000 pesos? Ayon sa aming informant, distributed na, bago pa man makarating sa airport: sa Chinese tour operator, sa ka-kontratang local tour operator, at sa sindikatong magdo-downstream sa airport,” Hontiveros claimed.

Citing figures provided by BI during the last hearing, Hontiveros said 1.8 million Chinese nationals have entered the Philppines in the previous years.

“This actually tallies roughly with what our informants said that around 2,000 Chinese nationals enter the country every day,” she said.

“Sa 1.8 million, 800,000 ang totoong turista or estudyanteng nag-apply ng totoong visa, at 1 million ang pumapasok gamit ang sistemang 10,000 service fee. Ibig sabihin, general estimate, P1 billion na ang nabayad sa kickback,” Hontiveros added.

She then later clarified that the total amount was actually P10 billion and not P1 billion as earlier stated during the hearing.

“Somebody sold our country’s borders for Chinese money,” she further said.

‘Pastillas payout’

In the past, these “payouts” purportedly distributed to immigration officers are placed in bond papers and rolled like a “pastillas.”

“Dati daw kasi, wala pang mga sobre so nilalagay sa bond paper at niro-rolyo na parang pastillas,” Hontiveros said as she presented another set of Viber chat group screenshots which showed the alleged cash distributions.

“Hanggang ngayon pastillas pa rin ang tawag dahil yun ang nakasanayan pero hindi na nirorolyo sa papel, ipinapasok na sa brown envelope,” she told reporters in an interview after the hearing.

Immigration officials who were present at the hearing denied they are aware of such schemes and assured that they are implementing reforms to avoid such activities of corruption within the agency.

But Hontiveros was not convinced.

“Naku po naman, kung may reforms talaga, matagal nang inalam yung ganitong klaseng operations parang ‘pastillas’ operation,” the senator told reporters.

“Imposibleng ganyang kalaking pera pumapasok illegally, improperly sa nakaraang ilang mga taon na, mula nung umusbong yung Pogo operations at illegal Pogo operations, imposibleng hindi malalaman ng mga responsableng opisyal talaga,” she added.

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