BI says ‘pastillas’ scheme a serious issue; vows to heed Duterte’s orders
MANILA, Philippines — The Bureau of Immigration (BI) has assured the public that the agency is taking the “pastillas scheme” issue seriously, vowing to abide by President Rodrigo Duterte’s orders to relieve the immigration officials involved.
This statement came from BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval hours after Malacañang announced that Duterte has ordered the relief of 19 BI personnel reportedly involved in the latest scandal.
“In compliance with the directive of the President, we are immediately relieving the services of 18 Immigration personnel mentioned during today’s Senate hearing regarding the ‘pastillas’ scheme,” Sandoval said on Thursday.
“We are not taking this lightly. The expose by Immigration Officer Alex Chiong is deeply alarming and we will ensure that we will take every measure to destroy this system of corruption, and impose the harshest penalties to erring personnel. Corruption has no place in the Bureau,” she added.
According to Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo, Duterte considers these actions as a “grave form of corruption.”
Under the scheme, Chinese nationals who are connected with Philippine offshore gaming operations (Pogo) provide Immigration officials P10,000 worth of grease money, rolled into bond papers appearing like pastillas pastries, for them to seamlessly enter the Philippines.
This was the revelation of Senator Risa Hontiveros during the Senate’s hearing on Pogo, claiming that around P10 billion worth of bribes have been collected under such scheme.
Initially, five officers have been relieved already due to command responsibility.
The proliferation of Pogos in the Philippines has been a highly-discussed issue because of allegations of workers, both foreign and local, that they have been forced to work and were abused.
Also, Pogo workers have been found to be part of an extensive sex trade, where female prostitutes are being ordered just like getting food in a menu with the use if a smartphone application.
But aside from that, several government official warned that Pogos may have an effect on the country’s sovereignty, as the Pogo sites may be used by the Chinese government to spy on the Philippines’ affairs.
Edited by JPV
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