MANILA - Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday flagged the "mutation" of bribery scheme "pastillas" scam, which allegedly allows Chinese nationals to illegally enter the country in collusion with immigration authorities.
Hontiveros said the cost of the alleged bribe has increased to P550,000 from P10,000 per Chinese national to be granted entry to the country.
"'Kala ko nga po COVID-19 lang ang nagmu-mutate, pati pastillas scam din pala. Parang bagong flavor po ng pastillas. May pandemya na nga po nagpapakasasa pa rin ang mga mapagsamantala," she told ABS-CBN's Teleradyo.
(Even this scam mutates, I thought only COVID-19 does. It's like a new flavor of pastillas, those who are exploitative flourish even in this pandemic.)
"Ang mga napapasok pa ay 'yung mga Tsino na may criminal record dahil sa sabwatan ng travel agencies at mga korap sa BI (Bureau of Immigration."
(Those who enter the country with the help of travel agencies and BI are Chinese nationals with criminal record.)
The Office of the Ombudsman has placed under preventive suspension at least half of Immigration personnel facing charges for alleged involvement in the scheme, Hontiveros earlier said.
"Sa kabila nitong pagaalam at pagpaparusa sa kanilang krimen, aba nagpapatuloy pa rin. Nagi-evolve pa ang kanilang scam, parang virus na rin, halos kasing tindi na ng COVID-19," she said.
(Despite this, their crimes continue. Their scam evolves, it's like a virus as severe as COVID-19.)
The alleged bribery scheme involves payment of grease money to immigration officials so that illegal Chinese workers could enter the country even without proper work visas.