86 individuals in ‘pastillas scam’ face criminal raps before Ombudsman — NBI
MANILA, Philippines — The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has filed a complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman against 86 personalities linked to the “pastillas scam,” including the reported ringleader.
In a 27-page complaint dated Nov. 3 but shared with the media on Thursday, the NBI filed a complaint for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act against the former chief of Port Operations Division of Bureau of Immigration Marc Red Mariñas, the alleged mastermind according to the NBI, and 85 others.
Of the 86, four are senior Immigration officers: Grifton San Pedro Medina, former port operations division acting chief; Glennford Comia, head of Travel Control and Enforcement Unit at Ninoy Aquino International Airport 1; Erwin Ortañez, Border Control Intelligence Unit chief; and Er German Robin, travel control and enforcement unit (TCEU) deputy head of operations from 2017 to 2019.
Under the complaint, NBI recommended that Jeffery Dale Ignacio, second whistleblower, must be used as a state witness based on his sworn statements and other supporting evidence submitted during the agency’s probe.
“Iyan iyong legal process na hinihiling natin sa Office of the Ombudsman. Kung ma-re-recall ninyo po, kasama po siya [Ignacio] sa nafile-an. Pinepray po natin, hinihiling po natin na siya ay gawin na lang na state witness. I-discharge at gawin as state witness at hindi na po siya isama sa kinakasuhan ng criminal case,” NBI Special Action Unit chief Emeterio Dongallo Jr., who is overseeing the “pastillas scam” case in NBI, said in an interview with INQUIRER.net.
(This is the legal process for the Ombudsman. If you would recall, he is included in those who faced the complaints. So we pray that he should be a state witness instead. We asked him to be discharged as a state witness and not be included in those who will face the criminal case.)
Ignacio is one of the 44 immigration officers that was suspended by the Ombudsman over the money-making racket. He is also one of the 19 immigration officers who violated the human trafficking law for allegedly facilitating the entry of a Taiwanese woman who was later rescued from a prostitution den.
Senator Risa Hontiveros asked the Ombudsman to consider excluding Ignacio, who helped uncover corruption in the agency.
The NBI also asked the Ombudsman to place all the accused individuals under preventive suspension to avoid any influence in the investigation.
“It is also respectfully prayed that all of herein subject be immediately placed under preventive suspension to preclude them from influencing the instant investigation,” read the complaint.
The NBI’s complaint made use of testimonies from Immigration officer Allison Chiong that were revealed at the Senate last February.
Chiong previously alleged that immigration officers are involved in the extortion of money from Chinese nationals in exchange for the swift entry of foreigners to the Philippines.
Accused immigration execs to be relieved
Immigration spokesman Dana Sandoval, meanwhile, said they will immediately impose the relief of officials accused in the NBI complaint.
“We have yet to receive a copy of the complaint, but if there are names included there that haven’t been relieved yet then we will immediately implement their relief,” Sandoval said in another statement to reporters.
Once relieved, Sandoval said the rogue Immigration officers “will be assigned to administrative division or back offices, and will not be given sensitive posts, pending the resolution of their case.”
No violated protocol
While the fresh complaint against those accused in the “pastillas scam” did not undergo evaluation from NBI Legal Department, Dongallo said they followed proper procedure in filing the complaints before the Ombudsman.
Instead, Dongallo said the complaints underwent evaluation by seasoned investigators from the Office of the Deputy Director for Investigative Service.
“Wala naman [issue doon sa pagfile]. Iyong legal namin siya iyong recommendatory o kaya nag-a-advise lang siya nagre-recommend pero ang may say lang diyan [sa kaso] ay iyong management. Wala naman pong nilabag diyan na protocol,” he said when sought for comment about asking for the NBI legal department’s approval before filing the case.
(There are no issues. Our legal department is only recommendatory or advises us to recommend it. But the management still has a final say on the complaints. We did not violate any protocols.)
“Abogado naman po ito [Office of the Deputy Director for Investigative Service] at mga senior officials po iyan sa tingin ko nga po sila din po ang karapa’t dapat o may kakayahan na magevaluate ng kaso,” he further said.
(They are lawyers and senior officials so I think they are the ones who have the ability to evaluate the case.)