NBI eyes raps vs 'more than 41' individuals after new Pastillas scam whistleblower surfaces

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 06 2020 02:57 PM

Photo shows how "pastillas" were allegedly distributed among Immigration officials. Courtesy of Sen. Risa Hontiveros

MANILA - The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Tuesday said it is eyeing to file charges against "more than 41 or 43" individuals after a second whistleblower testified how some Immigration officials allegedly facilitated the "pastillas" corruption scheme at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

Immigration Officer 2 Jeffrey Dale Ignacio, who was part of the alleged bribery scheme, was granted Senate immunity for drawing the "pyramid" of officials behind the alleged illegal payout for Immigration personnel in exchange for the entry of Chinese nationals without proper documents.

"Na-establish po halos ni Dale 'yung buong scheme," NBI Special Action Unit chief Emeterio Dongallo Jr. said during a Senate hearing about the alleged corruption mess in the country's main airport.

(Dale established almost the entire scheme.)

"After a very thorough interview sa ating second witness (Ignacio), it seems na madadagdagan po [ang makakasuhan]. Mas magiging marami po sa original na 43 or 41," he said.

(After a very thorough interview with our second witness, it seems that there will be additional persons to be charged. It will be more than the original of 43 or 41.)

Ignacio - the second Immigration officer who testified against his superiors - said former Bureau of Immigration Deputy Commissioner Marc Red Mariñas was the "boss" behind the corruption scheme, which was named after a Filipino dessert as a the bribes were wrapped in paper similar to how the local delicacy was packaged.

Security guard Fidel Mendoza served as Mariñas' "right hand," while former travel control and enforcement unit (TCEU) chief Erwin Ortañez oversaw the bribery scheme from all 3 NAIA terminals, Ignacio said.

Similar to the earlier testimony of first "Pastillas scheme" whistleblower Alex Chiong, Ignacio also tagged the following former heads of NAIA terminals as allegedly part of the corruption scheme:
- Former TCEU NAIA Terminal Head 1 Glenn Comia 
- Former TCEU NAIA Terminal Head 2 Bien Guevarra 
- Former TCEU NAIA Terminal Head 3 Den Binsol
- Former Deputy TCEU NAIA Terminal 1 Deon Albao
- Former Deputy TCEU NAIA Terminal 2 Mendoza
- Former Deputy TCEU NAIA Terminal 3 Anthony Lopez

"Kapag ang pasahero ay nasa listahan, tatakan lang ito ng tanong-tanong. Kapag wala naman sa listahan at may pagdududa, ire-refer sa TCEU at iche-check kung may tutubos," Ignacio told the Senate panel.

(If the passenger is on the list, he/she will be asked some questions. If the passenger is not on the list and there are doubts, he/she will be referred to the TCEU and it will be checked if somebody will come to assist.)

"Bilang kapalit, nakakatanggap kami ng P5,000 hanggang P20,000 weekly or every 2 weeks," he said.

(In exchange, we receive P5,000 up to P20,000 weekly or every 2 weeks.)

Ignacio was among the 19 Immigration personnel who were criminally charged last month in connection with the "Pastillas scheme."

The 33-year-old Immigration officer said he was forced to join the modus after their takehome pay was slashed in between 2016 and 2017.

Ignacio described himself as a "foot soldier" who decided to testify after Mariñas and other officials used him and other Immigration personnel as "shields" to clear themselves of corruption allegations.

"Sinabihan kami ng mga lawyers na 'wag puntahan yung subpoena. Sabi nila, wala namang formal charges kaya sila na lang ang pupunta," Ignacio said.

(We were advised by lawyers not to follow the subpoena. They said, there are no formal charges anyway so their presence would be enough.)

"Parang ginawa kaming shield para kami ay makasuhan at sila ay hindi makasuhan," he said.

(It's like we were used as shield so we will be the ones charged and not them.)

Dongallo, the NBI Special Action Unit chief, said charges against additional suspects in the "Pastillas scheme" may be filed in November.

"Ongoing pa po 'yung investigation... Nai-connect na po natin ang mga dots at nabubuo na po natin yung buong picture," Dongallo said.

(The investigation is ongoing... We are already connecting the dots, and we are completing the picture.)

"With this new development, a month maybe, we will try our best na makapag file ng (to file a) second batch," he added.

Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality chair Risa Hontiveros and Sen. Imee Marcos agreed to cite in contempt a certain Rodolfo Magbuhos, Den Binsol, and Mariñas father and son - Maynardo and Marc Red - for not heeding the Senate subpoena to attend the chamber's continuing investigation into the "Pastillas scheme."