Hontiveros urges Ombudsman: Don’t suspend ‘pastillas’ whistleblower
MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday urged Ombudsman Samuel Martires to exclude whistleblower Jeffrey Dale Ignacio from the 44 Bureau of Immigration (BI) officers he had suspended without pay for their alleged involvement in airport moneymaking rackets, including the “pastillas” scam.
The chair of the Senate women, children, family relations and gender equality panel said that while she welcomed the Ombudsman’s action against the erring immigration officers, she hoped that Martires would acknowledge Ignacio’s role in shedding light on corruption in the bureau.
In a statement, Hontiveros called the penalty imposed by the Ombudsman “a welcome and necessary development in our Senate investigation.”
“Having led the pastillas scam inquiry for almost 10 months now, I am gratified to see that the sacrifices of our whistleblowers, the fruits of our labor and the diligence of our law enforcers can bring erring officials to justice,” she said.
But Hontiveros requested Martires to consider excluding Ignacio, who turned state witness by testifying on how immigration officials institutionalized corruption in the agency.
She said Ignacio’s testimony “completed the picture of the corrupt system in the BI,” which was “invaluable” to the Senate inquiry, as well as to the National Bureau of Investigation’s own probe.
Hontiveros said she trusted that Martires would also go after the “big fish,” including those who had already left the immigration bureau.
The senator applauded the NBI for “remaining steadfast in their resolve to charge anyone,” to the point of pressing a criminal case against one of their own, lawyer Joshua Capiral, who was implicated by Ignacio for alleged extortion.
“I am positive that with the bureau’s dedication, more corrupt BI officials will be held to account,” she said.
Last week, Hontiveros’ panel wrapped up its nine-month inquiry, unearthing the pastillas scheme as well as a separate “modus operandi” through the visa-upon-arrival policy.
She estimated that corrupt BI officials had pocketed P40 billion in bribe money, mostly by facilitating the entry of around 4 million Chinese nationals since 2017. —DJ YAP
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