CA upholds dismissal of 3 BI officers in ‘pastillas’ scam

CA upholds dismissal of 3 BI officers in ‘pastillas’ scam

/ 05:20 AM April 24, 2024

CA affirms guilty verdict vs 7 Sayyaf members

The Court of Appeals in Manila BG PHOTO: COURT OF APPEALS WEBSITE

MANILA, Philippines — The Court of Appeals (CA) has affirmed the dismissal of three immigration officers who were linked to the controversial “pastillas” scam and identified by whistleblowers as the administrators of a Viber group chat that forwarded information to those involved in the racket.

In a 23-page decision dated April 12, the court upheld the Ombudsman’s decision to dismiss petitioners Aurelo Lucero III, George Bituin and Salahudin Hadjinoor for grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.


“As the Office of the Ombudsman found Lucero, Bituin and Hadjinoor to be part of the ‘pastillas’ group based on the overwhelming substantial evidence against them, we see no reason to depart from the same,” it said.


READ: Ombudsman sacks 45 BI officers over links to ‘Pastillas’ scheme

But at the same time, the court overturned the dismissal of another immigration officer, Frances Meeka Flores, for lack of substantial evidence. It also ordered her immediate reinstatement to her former position at the Bureau of Immigration (BI).

Credible witnesses

The “pastillas” scheme involved Chinese nationals who bribed BI officers into letting them enter the country illegally between 2017 and 2020. The controversy was named after the popular Filipino milk candy as the bribe money was wrapped in rolled-up white paper and resembled the delicacy. In 2022, the Ombudsman ordered the dismissal of over 40 BI agents who were involved in the racket.

In affirming the dismissal of Lucero, Bituin and Hadjinoor, the court said it gave “premium” to the positive identification of two whistleblowers, BI officers Allison Chiong and Jeffrey Dale Ignacio, who provided evidence against the suspects.

“Surely, no one will voluntarily subject himself/herself to possible retaliation aside for the reason that his/her conscience compels him/her to tell the truth,” the court noted.

“It is especially true in this instance where Chiong and Ignacio revealed the corruption happening in their very own workplace and against their own workmates, who, at some point in time, they were in cahoots with,” it added.


The two whistleblowers disclosed that foreign travel agencies and clients, and even some members of foreign syndicates engaged in illegal activities in the Philippines, would forward to their BI contacts a list containing the names of certain foreign nationals, along with their dates of arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

The list would then be forwarded to a Viber group chat called “Timbre Central,” whose administrators would disseminate it to members of the ‘pastillas’ group in other group chats. According to the appellate court, Chiong and Ignacio specifically named and “repeatedly mentioned” Lucero, Bituin and Hadjinoor as among the chat administrators.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

“At this juncture, we emphasize that findings of administrative agencies, when based on substantive evidence such as the testimony of a credible whistleblower, deserve great respect by courts and can be the basis for the imposition of administrative liability on a public officer,” the court said.

TAGS: BI, CA, pastillas scheme

© Copyright 1997-2024 | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.