Ex-justice chief Aguirre tagged in 'pastillas' bribery scheme

David Dizon and Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 02 2020 01:11 PM | Updated as of Mar 02 2020 03:20 PM

Tulfo accusations 'absolute lies' - Aguirre 

MANILA (UPDATE)- Former Justice Sec. Vitaliano Aguirre II has been tagged as a protector of the so-called "pastillas" bribery scheme that allows the unimpeded entry of Chinese tourists into the country, a Senate inquiry revealed Monday. 

Columnist and special envoy to China Mon Tulfo said information provided by immigration whistleblower Allison "Alex" Chiong revealed that a cut of the "pastillas" bribes was delivered via helicopter to Aguirre in Mulanay, Quezon.

"Siya po ang protektor ng sindikato base sa ni-report sa akin ni Mr. Chiong," Tulfo told the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality inquiry. 

The "pastillas" scheme was revealed in a Senate inquiry last month by opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who said Chinese nationals who enter the Philippines as tourists and later work for Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO) hubs pay immigration personnel and Chinese and Filipino travel agencies P10,000 in grease money rolled in bond paper.

In his testimony, Tulfo accused Aguirre of "castrating" the powers of Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente and arrogating unto himself the power to hire, fire and reassign immigration personnel. 

This is the reason, he said, why ex-immigration officer Marc Red Mariñas - one of the alleged "protectors" of an immigration mafia - and his father, Maynardo Mariñas, were both working in the bureau. 

"Very obvious. Bakit i-a-assign mo 'yung tatay at anak sa Immigration, holding key positions?" he said. 

He also accused the younger Mariñas of lying when the former Immigration official said he did not know about the "pastillas" scheme when he was head of the ports operation division in 2016. 

AGUIRRE VS TULFO

Aguirre said Tulfo's allegations were "absolute lies and complete fabrications", adding that the columnist was going after him due to personal vendetta.

"He wanted to get back at me because I did not grant his request to consolidate the more than 70 Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) cases in Manila because he was complaining of inconvenience and expenses [by] traveling throughout the country to answer the INC complaints," Aguirre told ABS-CBN News in a text message.

"I filed numerous libel and cyber libel cases against Tulfo because of this same defamatory accusations, and all these complaints filed almost 2 years ago are now pending before the RTCs of Manila," he said.

"I will again file new cases against Tulfo. Kahit saan, I could face anybody for I am completely innocent of his charges," he said.

Aguirre said he would "write the Senate Committee of Sen. Hontiveros to invite me and Tulfo if there is any future hearing so I could refute them and tell Tulfo to his face that he is liar."

Hontiveros said the former Justice secretary will be summoned to a Senate inquiry next week.

NO HELICOPTER DELIVERIES

For his part, Mariñas denied using a helicopter to deliver bribes to Mulanay and accused Chiong of "producing and directing" a video that showed the alleged "pastillas" scheme that catered to Chinese tourists. 

He confirmed that a certain Fidel Mendoza seen in the helicopter with him was his former staff assistant.

Mendoza, a former security guard, is now part of the administrative division, the Immigration bureau said. 

Chiong admitted that he also benefited from bribes given to Immigration officers. He said Immigration officers assigned to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 got P20,000 weekly in "pastillas" while those in Terminal 3 got P8,000 weekly. 

He said he did not know the shares in Terminal 2 "because I was never assigned there."