Bureau of Immigration (BI) Commissioner Jaime Morente lambasted on Saturday officials and other personnel of the bureau accused of facilitating the “pastillas” scheme, where illegal Chinese workers enter the Philippines and work in gambling hubs by paying grease money.
“As the Commissioner, I am very disappointed with the unauthorized activities of some personnel who continue to commit irregularities despite our determined efforts to get rid of the culture of corruption in the Bureau since 2016,” Morente said.
The “pastillas” scheme, revealed by opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros in a Senate inquiry earlier, has cited that Chinese nationals who enter the Philippines as tourists and later work for Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) hubs pay immigration personnel and Chinese and Filipino travel agencies grease money of P10,000 rolled in bond paper, looking like a local delicacy called “pastillas”.
However, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that a “syndicate” within the Immigration bureau might be “a bit difficult to break” due to its suspected ties with groups in China.
Among the personalities who were able to enter the country through payoffs were Chinese nationals already in the immigration blacklist.
Morente ordered the creation of a fact-finding committee to look into the scheme.
Morente gave it 15 days to investigate and submit a report.
President Rodrigo Duterte has earlier fired all BI employees allegedly involved in the “pastillas” modus operandi.
Duterte spared Morente because he “loves” him and considers him “mabait” (kind).
Personnel tagged in the “pastillas” modus have all been placed “in the administrative holding office” as the investigation continues, according to Morente.
“I am certain that after this exposé, the intense public scrutiny and accompanying trial by publicity that the Bureau has been subjected to will only ensure that we come out stronger as we weather yet another storm,” Morente said.
After the scheme was revealed, Morente has ordered to put in place additional measures to deter other illegal activities within the BI.
“As added measures to deter and expose any more illegal activities, we have included new protocols in the conduct of secondary inspections in open areas to improve transparency and installation of additional CCTV cameras in all areas of the primary inspectors.”/Stacy Ang