MANILA - The National Bureau of Investigation on Wednesday said it has filed criminal charges against 19 personnel of the Bureau of Immigration over the so-called "pastillas" bribery scheme.
Aside from the 19 Immigration personnel, a private individual who owns a travel agency will also be charged for allegedly bribing public officials.
The Immigration personnel facing charges are the following:
- Grifton San Pedro Medina
- Deon Carlo Albao
- Fidel Mendoza
- Abdulhafez Dela Tonga Hadjibasher
- Gabriel Ernest Mitra Estacio
- Ralph Ryan Macahilo Garcia
- Phol Bendaña Villanueva
- Abdul Fahad Guro Calaca
- Danilo Caro Deudor
- Mark Dollete Macababad
- Aurelio Somera Lucero III
- George Bituin
- Salahudin Pacalda Hadjinoor
- Chevy Chase Reyes Naniong
- Jeffrey Dale Salameda Ignacio
- Hamza Usudan Pacasum
- Manuel Brillante Sarmiento III
- Cherry Pie Payabyab Ricolcol
- Er German Tegio Robin
NBI officer-in-charge Director Eric Distor said Ignacio, also known as "Boss Nyepi," would be facing an additional charge of qualified trafficking in persons for allegedly recruiting a Taiwanese woman to work in the Philippines and facilitate the easy entry of said foreigner, despite only holding a tourist visa.
The NBI said the foreigner was also forcibly transferred to a Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) company where she experienced abuse until she was rescued by the NBI.
According to Distor, an immigration officer testified under oath about the alleged money-making scheme dubbed "pastillas."
The whistleblower also alleged that the immigration officers and personnel conspired and helped each other to directly and indirectly request and receive money, gifts and other benefits, including sexual favors from trafficked foreign women.
The immigration officers and personnel involved also allegedly facilitated the entry of foreign nationals into the country despite the absence of necessary documents in exchange for so-called "pastillas money" or bribes.
Following the filing of charges, the NBI requested the Office of the Ombudsman to place the subjects under preventive suspension pending investigation.
In a statement, the Bureau of Immigration said it would strengthen its monitoring in all international ports and extension offices to ensure the continued effort to cleanse its ranks of corrupt personnel.
"We are one with the campaign of the government to get rid of corruption and make those erring personnel accountable before the court of law," the BI said.
The bureau also encouraged the public to help in its campaign against erring immigration personnel by reporting through its hotline or email.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros earlier welcomed the filing of charges against 19 immigration officials over the so-called "pastillas" bribery scheme that allowed the unimpeded entry of Chinese tourists into the country.
Hontiveros, as chair of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality, led legislative inquiries into the scheme back in February, through which illegal Chinese workers were known to have traveled to the Philippines as tourists and pay P10,000 as grease money so they could enter even without proper work visas.
- reports from Rose Carmelle Lacuata and Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News