‘Pastillas scheme’ whistleblower testifies in Senate
Marje Pelayo • February 20, 2020 • 624
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)
MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Monday said its operatives have apprehended a Japanese national in Davao City for working without proper permit and visa.
In a statement, Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said the Japanese man, identified as 45-year old Kiyoshi Yokoyama, was arrested last March 18 at an office in Davao City where he was allegedly employed as general manager.
Yokoyama was arrested after his staff complained of maltreatment.
According to BI intelligence chief Fortunato Manahan Jr., a female employee had complained that last January 3, Yokoyama threatened to physically harm her “in a fit of rage.”
The incident was reportedly witnessed by other employees.
“She said she felt very humiliated that all she could do was cry,” Manahan said.
He also stated that other than disclosing the Japanese national’s lack of work permit, the employees also demanded that Yokoyama be deported “for being anti-Filipino because of his oppressive and abusive conduct towards company employees.”
The bureau said that a check of Yokoyama’s travel history showed that he has been frequenting the country as a tourist since 2013 and that there is no record that he obtained or applied for a working visa with the BI.
A verification made with the Department of Labor and Employment office in Region 10 also showed that Yokoyama did not secure or apply for an alien employment permit.
“We cannot tolerate the continued stay of foreigners who blatantly violate our laws by working without permit and oppress Filipino workers,” Morente said.
MANILA, Philippines – Holders of temporary visitors visa who have stayed in the country for less than a year may temporarily get their Emigration Clearance Certificates (ECC) at any international airports in the country, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said.
In a statement, Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said the measure follows the implementation of enhanced community quarantine in Luzon to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
An ECC is issued to temporary visitors who have stayed in the country for more than six months, and to holders of residence, work, or students visas who wish to leave the country for good.
Morente said the bureau has also suspended biometrics capturing and fingerprinting, and the issuance of Special Registration Numbers (SSRN) as requirements for the processing of ECCs to ensure compliance with physical distancing directives.
“The Bureau complied with the directive from Malacañang by continuing to operate with a skeletal workforce,” he said in a statement.
“We have put this temporary measure in place to prevent the influx of foreign nationals leaving the country who will be applying to process their ECCs, essentially minimizing physical contact with the traveling public,” he added.
Morente said they will still counter match the applications with their derogatory database to ensure that no foreigner with a pending case will be able to leave the country.
“We will still conduct derogatory records checking before giving clearance to ensure that any foreign national who wishes to leave the country has no pending obligation with the government,” he said.
The bureau earlier issued an advisory suspending several transactions in Luzon, including tourist visa extensions except for foreign nationals intending to depart the country.
In the said directive, aliens whose visas will expire during the enhanced community quarantine may file for extension after the quarantine period without penalty.
MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Wednesday said it has mobilized its personnel with medical background to help immigration frontline officers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) get protected from the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said 18 immigration officers, who are registered nurses, will form an ad hoc medical team that will respond to any situation requiring medical attention at the airport.
They will also attend to the medical needs of their fellow officers manning the airport’s immigration counters.
“Our immigration officers, like our health workers, are also in the frontlines of our campaign against the COVID-19. It is only proper that they be protected against this virus and extended medical attention should they need it,” Morente said in a statement.
BI Port Operations Division Chief Grifton Medina said the medical team will be given respective shifts at the NAIA.
The team will also monitor and disallow immigration personnel exhibiting flu-like symptoms to report for duty.
“Fortunately, we have in our ranks several immigration officers who have worked as nurses and have extensive medical experience before they joined the bureau,” Medina said.
“We are now tapping their knowledge and expertise in the fight against COVID-19,” he added.
Meanwhile, Morente reminded the immigration frontline officers who have flu-like symptoms to skip work, and voluntarily go on 14-day self-quarantine as a precautionary measure.
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