‘Pastillas scheme’ whistleblower testifies in Senate

Marje Pelayo   •   February 20, 2020   •   809

MANILA, Philippines – Allison Chiong, a frontline immigration officer 1 at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) appeared before the Senate inquiry on Thursday (February 20).

Chiong is the whistleblower who Senator Risa Hontiveros referred to as her informant of the bribery and corrupt practices dubbed as ‘pastillas’ scheme inside the Bureau of Immigration (BI).

Chiong’s main task as a frontline officer was to check the travel documents of departing and arriving passengers.

He confessed that the ‘pastillas scheme’ indeed exists.

“Pastillas is a Chinese money used to bribe Immigration officers so they can freely enter our country,” Chiong said.

It works when each arriving Chinese national ‘wraps’ P2,000 as payout in exchange for hassle-free entry into the Philippines.

According to Chiong, there were instances that Immigration officers allowed the entry of a blacklisted person at a price of P50,000 to P200,000.

High-profile fugitives, meanwhile, were priced of up to millions of pesos.

Chiong said he decided to record and expose a video of the scheme because the Filipino people deserved to know the truth.

Sukdulan na po. Gusto ko po i-expose talaga itong nangyayari sa Immigration (I’ve had enough. I really wanted to expose what’s really happening in the Immigration),” Chiong said.

During the Senate hearing, the whistleblower dropped the names of several Immigration officials who acted as leaders of the syndicate and manipulated the illegal operation.

He also disclosed the administrators of a chat group where accomplice travel agencies used to send the names of arriving Chinese nationals who should be given VIP treatment once they arrived in the country.

After po noong first hearing ninyo, noong in-expose po ninto ito, nag-dissolve agad sila. Siempre, magtatago iyan (After your first hearing where you exposed this matter, they dissolved the chat group immediately. Of course, they would hide right away). They would burrow underground,” Chiong said.

Ang feeling ko po ngayon is, wala. Nag-sacrifice na ako. (What I feel right now is blank. I already sacrificed.) I don’t think I can go back to my work as an information officer (because surely, the Bureau is already mad at me),” he added.

Senator Hontivero said they would summon the immigration officers that Chiong mentioned to question them of their participation in the said illegal activity and to expose other officials who have links in the ‘pastillas scheme.’

“May mabigat na latak sa kalooban ko na hindi kapani-paniwala na totally hindi nila alam (I am not totally convinced that they do not know about it),” Hontiveros said.

Pero napansin ko rin iyong sinabi ni Alex Chiong na wala kanina sa Session Hall ang mga opisyal na alam niyang kasangkot partikular ng Pastillas operation (But I noticed what Alex Chiong mentioned that none of those involved in the Pastillas operation was inside the Session Hall),” the lady senator said.

Hontiveros confirmed that Chiong was placed under the witness protection program.

Also, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo announced that President Rodrigo Duterte already ordered the relief of Immigration officials involved in the so-called ‘pastillas’ operations. – MNP (with details from Harlene Delgado)

Suspected American pedophile nabbed in Pangasinan

Robie de Guzman   •   July 7, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Tuesday said it has arrested an American wanted by United States authorities for alleged sexual exploitation of a Filipino minor.

In a statement, Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente identified the suspect as 69-year old Michael Kent Clapper.

Morente said Clapper was arrested on Monday in San Manuel, Pangasinan during a joint operation conducted by operatives from the bureau’s Fugitive Search Unit, Women and Children Protection Center, and the Philippine National Police Region 1.

The BI chief said the arrest was made after the US Embassy sought the agency’s assistance in apprehending clapper due to his “involvement in possible sexual exploitation of a minor in the Philippines.”

Morente said Clapper has allegedly been in an “inappropriate relationship” with a 12-year old girl.

The Embassy also stated that Clapper’s US passport already expired, making him an undocumented alien who is subject to summary deportation.

“He will be deported for being an undocumented and undesirable alien,” Morente said.

“His continued presence here poses a serious risk to our Filipino children, anyone of whom could be his next victim,” he added.

The bureau said Clapper last arrived in the country as a tourist on March 26 last year.

He is temporarily detained at the San Miguel police headquarters pending release of his swab test for COVID-19.

If he tests negative for the virus, he will be committed to the BI Warden Facility in Bicutan, Taguig City where he will remain until he is deported.

Clapper will then be placed in the immigration blacklist and banned from re-entering the country, the BI said.

Immigration bureau reiterates: Pinoy tourists still can’t leave PH due to COVID-19

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 6, 2020

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) has reiterated that Filipino tourists are still prohibited from traveling outside the country due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

BI Commissioner Jaime Morente issued a statement after six Filipinos were recently barred from going to Cambodia via a special chartered flight from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). The said Filipinos were reported to be tourists with no essential purpose in leaving the country.

“We want to emphasize and reiterate that Filipinos are still prohibited from leaving the country unless they are Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), holders of study visas or permanent residents in the country of their destination,” Morente said.

BI Port Operations Acting Chief Grifton Medina said the six passengers were offloaded from their flight last June 29 after they informed the immigration officer that they were going to Phnom Penh merely to attend a business meeting on shrimp farming.

The Bureau also said it will continue to implement existing international travel restrictions until these are lifted or relaxed by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).

“These travel restrictions are only temporary and we should always bear in mind that the government implemented these measures to protect our countrymen against this deadly coronavirus,” Medina said. AAC

PH Immigration deports 10 more illegal aliens

Robie de Guzman   •   June 30, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Tuesday said it has deported 10 more illegal aliens detained at its warden facility in Taguig City.

In a statement, the BI said the 10 foreigners include eight Chinese nationals and two Mongolians.

They departed from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport via separate flights bound for China last June 19, 24 and 25.

“All of them have been placed on the immigration blacklist of undesirable aliens upon orders of our board of commissioners. Thus, they are now banned from re-entering the Philippines,” BI port operations chief Grifton Medina said.

It was learned that five of the Chinese deportees are wanted in their country for economic crimes due to their involvement in illegal online gaming operations and telecom fraud.

The three other Chinese nationals were deported for overstaying and committing fraud and misrepresentation, while the two Mongolians are alleged female sex workers caught in one of the raids of prostitution dens in Metro Manila last year.

According to Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente, the deportation was carried out as part of the bureau’s efforts to decongest and prevent the spread of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at its detention facility located in Camp Bagong Diwa.

“We will continue to send home these foreign inmates once they have been issued deportation orders and provided they have no pending criminal cases in court,” Morente said.

“We are doing this to safeguard the health not only of the foreign detainees but also that of our personnel assigned to our warden facility,” he added.

The BI earlier reported it had deported seven Chinese nationals who are facing charges for economic crimes and illegal black sand mining.

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