‘Pastillas’ scheme whistleblower surfaces at Senate probe
MANILA, Philippines — The whistleblower who exposed the alleged “pastillas” money-making scheme within the Bureau of Immigration (BI) surfaced at the Senate on Thursday to personally testify on the multi-billion peso scheme.
“My primary function as an immigration officer involves operating the counter in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) wherein I am tasked to examine the travel documents of departing and arriving passengers rotating in its three terminals,” immigration officer Allison “Alex” Chiong said in his opening statement.
“As a frontline immigration officer, I have personally witnessed various illegal transactions over the years involving the extortion of money in exchange for unimpeded passage through the Philippines whether leaving or entering our country,” he added.
Early this week, Senator Risa Hontiveros exposed the “pastillas” scheme wherein immigration officers purportedly extort money from Chinese nationals wanting to work in Philippine offshore gaming operators (Pogos), in exchange for a seamless entry into the country.
Before this, Hontiveros had previously conducted a hearing into the alleged prostitution dens linked with Pogos.
This particular hearing, Chiong said, compelled him to “come forward and to share what I know based on my personal knowledge as a frontline immigration officer.”
Chiong admits receiving ‘pastillas,’ too
Chiong admitted during the hearing that he also received pay-offs through the racket.
“That is why I have the knowledge, I have detailed knowledge of everything,” he said.
Hontiveros said the Senate, as authorized by Senate President Vicente Sotto III, has extended immunity from suit to Chiong.
“You have immunity for the statements you will be making to this committee, in aid of legislation,” she told Chiong.
Hontiveros also said her staff conducted a background check on Chiong, who personally went to her office to make the revelation on the “pastillas” operation.
“Si Mr. Chiong ay personal na lumapit sa opisina ko. Walk-in talaga,” she told reporters in an interview after the hearing.
(Mr. Chiong personally went to my office. He was a walk-in.)
“Binackground check ng aking opisina, wala po siyang derogatory information,” she added.
(My office conducted a background check and he has no derogatory information.)
Chiong has now been placed under the Department of Justice’s witness protection program, Hontiveros said.
Edited by EDV
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