MANILA- There must be evidence presented to back the "serious" allegations linking former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to the so-called "pastillas" bribery scheme that allows the unimpeded entry of Chinese tourists into the country, Malacañang said Monday.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo urged columnist and special envoy to China Mon Tulfo to present evidence against Aguirre to authorities for investigation.
"Mr. Tulfo, the one accusing him, should provide information to the proper authorities," Panelo, also the chief presidential legal counsel, told reporters in Malacañang.
"That is a serious allegation and the one alleging must provide information to the proper authorities [so] that can be investigated," he added.
Tulfo on Monday told a Senate panel that 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.
(He is the protector of the syndicate based on the report of Mr. Chiong)
Aguirre, however, said Tulfo's allegations were "absolute lies and complete fabrications", adding that the columnist was going after him due to personal vendetta.
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, similar to the look of the local milk candy.
Aguirre left the Department of Justice in 2018 after President Rodrigo Duterte criticized the department for clearing drug suspects Kerwin Espinosa and Peter Lim of charges.
During his time as justice chief, Aguirre oftentimes drew flak for spreading unverified information.