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Travel agencies under watch amid ‘pastillas’ scheme

Alvin Murcia



In view of the recent development about the controversy of the escort system – also known as the “pastillas” scheme — that allegedly involved personnel of the Bureau of Immigration (BI), the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is looking into possible involvement of travel agencies.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra revealed on Wednesday that the NBI was already directed to look into all angles on the said scheme to determine who are behind the said “syndicate”.

The Justice chief said the investigation of the NBI include the possible involvement of travel agencies and tour operators in syndicated operations.

“This is covered by the investigation currently being conducted by the NBI,” said Guevarra, adding the bureau has been investigating all these things since last year even before the revelation of Ramon Tulfo based on undisclosed sources.

In the Senate hearing the other day, a travel agency was mentioned as the one who processed so many visa upon arrival (VUA) mostly to Chinese nationals entering the country.

Guevarra said that the NBI investigation covers two broad areas, namely human trafficking (outbound) and escort services (inbound), which include the pastillas scandal.

Earlier, Guevarra has said the investigation is focused on the unlawful activities, regardless of who are maybe actually involved.

In a Senate hearing former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II was tagged as the protector of the “pastillas” scheme in the Bureau of Immigration and has been receiving his share from the grease money even after leaving office, as per Tulfo’s claim.

The senator’s was told by Tulfo citing the account made by whistleblower Allison “Alex” Chiong, that Aguirre was the “protector” of the illegal scheme that allowed Chinese nationals to pay their way for easy entry to the Philippines.