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‘Pastillas’ BI payoffs bared

Hananeel Bordey

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Investigating bribery allegations Senator Risa Hontiveros, chairman of the Committee on Women, Children, Family Relation and Gender Equality, questions Bureau of Immigration (BI) officials headed by Grifton Medina (center), Port Operations Division; Fortunato Manahan (left), BI Intelligence Division; with P/Gen Alessandro Abella, Women and Children Protection Center, Philippine National Police, during the Senate on 17 February 2020. PHOTOGRAPHS BY BOB DUNGO JR. FOR THE DAILY TRIBUNE @tribunephl_bob

Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday exposed a payola system in the Bureau of Immigration (BI) lines at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) 1 which illegal aliens allegedly use to gain entry into the country.

These BI officers assigned at the NAIA Terminal 1, Hontiveros said, are enjoying pastillas from Chinese companies in exchange for red carpet treatment for certain Chinese nationals arriving in the Philippines.

The lawmaker’s disclosure was made during the Senate Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality Committee inquiry on Chinese sex dens in the country.

Pastillas is a Filipino delicacy made from milk, but which these BI officers use as codename for their payroll from Chinese companies for them to escort certain Chinese nationals illegally entering the country.

According to Hontiveros, the modus was centralized by agency higher-ups where Chinese nationals are allowed seamless entry into the country for a ‘service fee’ of P10,000 per head.

From the said amount, only P2,000 were given to BI officers at the airport while the P8,000 were not yet traced.

“Where are the 8,000 pesos? According to our informant, it was already distributed even before (a Chinese national) arrives at the airport. (This was given to) the Chinese tour operator, their local tour operator partner, and to the syndicate at the airports,” Hontiveros claimed.

The payroll earned its moniker, pastillas because the money for the BI escorting service was rolled in papers like the delicacy. Later on, Hontiveros said, these rolled papers have become envelops distributed to the BI officers.

During the hearing, Hontiveros has shown a video footage from her informant from the BI which showed how these Chinese nationals were given VIP treatment from BI officers stationed at NAIA Terminal 1.

The video showed an immigration officer escorting a Chinese national to a back office where a person, who appears like a BI supervisor, seemingly validating the identity of a Chinese national’s name against a prepared list.

The video was taken two weeks ago, she said.

To support her revelations, Hontiveros also showed screenshots of a Viber group of immigration officers where the arriving Chinese nationals’ identity and flight details were indicated.

Hontiveros pointed out in her opening statement that the pastillas system have already reached a billion as the BI revealed that 1.8 million Chinese nationals have entered the country in the past few years.

She claimed that kickbacks to corrupt officials have already been distributed and the “lion’s share goes to the bosses.”

“Somebody sold our country’s borders for Chinese money,” Hontiveros exclaimed.

“This will not be a systematic operation inside the Bureau of Immigration if there are no padrino (sponsors). These people behind illegal POGO (Philippine offshore gaming operations) will not have the audacity if there is no protector and people who earn millions,” she added.

Hontiveros cited her informant’s testimony saying that the modus inside the BI thrived as there are at least 2,000 POGO workers who arrive in the country daily.

BI officials in Intelligence Division Officer Fortunato Manahan, Port Operations Division Chief Grifton Medina, Head of Legal Division Atty. Arvin Santos and Deputy Commissioner Tobias Javier denied any knowledge of the pastillas modus.

with ALVIN MURCIA
@tribunephl_alvi

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