VIP service for a fee or “pastillas” corruption scheme happening since 2016, says BI whistleblower

(Eagle News) – The VIP service for a fee at the Bureau of Immigration (BI) started in 2016 when the Department of Justice removed the overtime pay for immigration officers, according to an immigration officer who testified at a Senate hearing on Thursday, Feb. 20.

Immigration Officer 1 Allison Chiong also named the current and former immigration personnel who are involved in the operations, also known as “pastillas” scheme since money paid for BI officers by the Chinese nationals are rolled up in bond paper just like a “pastillas” candy.

-“Pastillas” corruption modus started with Chinese casino players-

Chiong said that the corruption scheme started with Chinese casino players, even before the Philippine Gaming and Offshore Operators (POGO) began in the country.

“To cope with the substantial deduction of their salaries, some immigration officers decided to offer VIP services for immigrants who are casino high rollers,” Chiong said.

“This VIP service involved immigration officers accepting P2,000 for each high-roller, in exchange for the latter’s convenient and seamless immigration,” he said.

-Chiong: BI officials involved in corruption occupying various plantilla positons-

He identified the immigration officials running the operations as Traffic Control Enforcement Unit officers Bien Guevarra, Glenn Comia, and Den Binsol, who were all under former Ports Operation Division Chief Red Mariñas.

Chiong said Mariñas decided to take over the operations.

“They took control of the collections from entering and departing passengers, then disbursed commissions at the end of every week,” he said.

Other groups operating there involve immigration officers Totoy Magbuhos, Deon Albao alias Nancy, Paul Borja alias Lisa, Anthony Lopez alias Al, and Dennis Robles.

Chiong said that these persons “occupy various plantilla positions within the bureau.”

“They still maintain their syndicate groups’ operations,” he said.

-Only 10 percent of BI employees not involved in corruption scheme-

Chiong said that majority of the immigration officers in the various terminals know of this corruption scheme and benefit from them, saying only 10 percent in the Bureau of Immigration are not involved in this.

He said that it was in the year 2017 when there was a huge influx of Chinese nationals, with around 2,000 tourists arriving each day.

With a payment of P10,000, the Chinese nationals are no longer required to present their itinerary, return flights and proof of travel.

“Para sa Chinese tourists, hahanapan yan first ng return flight or return ticket going back to China; second, yung hotel booking or place to stay; third is yung itinerary. Ano ba talaga ang gagawin nila dito. Doon pa lang makikita ano yung intent, yung pupose ng travel nila. Fourth, in some cases, hinahanapan sila ng proof of financial capacity,” Chiong explained during his testimony at the Senate hearings.

He said Chinese nationals who fit the profile of POGO employees enter the country with a tourist visa.

Chiong said he decided to come out after watching the Senate hearing exposing the prostitution happening in POGO operations, saying that he cannot take this anymore.

Sukdulan na po e. Gusto ko na pong i-expose itong nangyayari sa immigration. May karapatan po kasing malaman ito ng mamamayang Pilipino,” he said.

The BI has so far relieved at least five officials, including terminal heads at NAIA, and the head of the Travel Control and Enforcement Unit (TCEU).

The Senate hearing on the POGO operations which exposed the prostitution and other anomalies there had led to the expose on the corruption existing at the Bureau of Immigration. The hearings were conducted by the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relatiuons and Gender Equality headed by Senator Risa Hontiveros.

(Meanne Corvera, Eagle News Service)