‘Pastillas’ scam ‘foot soldier’ surfaces at Senate as new whistleblower
MANILA, Philippines — A self-confessed member of the so-called “pastillas” group surfaced at the Senate on Tuesday to testify on the multi-billion racket wherein immigration officers purportedly extort money from Chinese nationals in exchange for a seamless entry into the country.
During the resumption of the investigation led by the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality, Senator Risa Hontiveros presented Immigration Officer II Jeffrey Ignacio as the panel’s new whistleblower.
“Isa akong miyembro ng tinaguriang Pastillas group na gumagawa ng katiwalian sa hanay ng Bureau of Immigration at ang grupo naming na ito ay naimbestigahan ng NBI at kamakailan lamang ay sinampahan ng kaso ng Ombudsman,” Ignacio said.
(I am a member of the so-called Pastillas group that is doing irregularities among the ranks of the Bureau of Immigration and our group had already been investigated by the NBI and charged before the [Office of the] Ombudsman.)
The National Bureau of Investigation earlier filed a complaint against 20 individuals, composed of 19 immigration officers and an owner of a travel agency, who are allegedly involved in the modus.
Ignacio said he decided to testify to clear his name.
He said financial problems prompted him to join the “pastillas” group in 2017.
“Lumipas ang ilang buwan na wala pa ring Augmentation Pay, nagkabaon-baon na ako sa utang. Nanghiram ako ng pera sa mga kabatch ko, kaibigan ko, at parents ko,” he said.
(Months had passed and we are still waiting for the augmentation pay, I was debt-ridden. I borrowed cash from my fellow batchmates, friends and my parents.)
“Noong wala na po akong mahiraman ng pera, doon na ako napilitan sumali sa Pastillas group bilang ‘foot soldier’ kagaya ni Alex Chiong,” he added.
(When I ran out of people where I can borrow money from, that was the time I was forced to join the Pastillas group as a foot soldier like Alex Chiong.)
Chiong is the committee’s first witness, who exposed details regarding the immigration scheme last February.
Hontiveros, chair of the Senate committee, said Senate President Vicente Sotto III has approved the granting of legislative immunity to Ignacio.