MANILA — “Traydor sa bayan (traitor to the country).”
This was the remark of Sen. Risa Hontiveros as she exposed the ‘pastillas’ modus within the Bureau of Immigration [BI], a system allegedly centralized by agency higher-ups where Chinese nationals are allowed seamless entry into the country for a ‘service fee’ of PhP10,000.
During a committee hearing on Monday investigating the link of the boom of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators or POGO to prostitution and trafficking in the country, the Senator showed a video of an immigration officer escorting Chinese nationals to BI’s inner office, seemingly validating the Chinese nationals’ identity against a list with a supervisor.
“Bakit parang may VIP escort itong mga Chinese nationals papasok ng bansa?” Hontiveros asked during the hearing. The Senator also showed screenshots of Viber groups containing names, flight details and photos of Chinese nationals.
“‘Wag na ‘wag niyong lolokohin ang taumbayan. Hindi standard procedure yan”, Hontiveros remarked. The Senator said that the materials were sourced from an informant within the BI itself.
The senator also exposed photos from the whistleblower of the cash distributions, called ‘pastillas’, within the BI. “Tinanong ko bakit pastillas ang tawag. Dati daw kasi, wala pang mga sobre so nilalagay sa bond paper at niro-rolyo na parang pastillas,” she said.
“Ngayon, mas professional na: may sobre parang legit na pasuweldo, may bonus pag perfect attendance, at may pa-lunch pa mula sa mga Chinese,” Hontiveros added.
“Ayon sa aming informant, mas lumakas ang ganitong modus dahil sa libu-libong mga POGO workers na dumarating sa bansa araw-araw,” she also added said.
The Senator detailed that of the 10,000-peso service fee per Chinese national entering the country, only 2,000 pesos actually trickle down to airport immigration.
“Nasaan na yung 8,000 pesos? Ayon sa aming informant, distributed na, bago pa man makarating sa airport: sa Chinese tour operator, sa ka-kontratang local tour operator, at sa sindikatong magdodownstream sa airport,” Hontiveros claimed.
Chinese bribery endangers PH border
The Senator also said that around a billion pesos may have already been disbursed as kickbacks to corrupt officials. “Somebody sold our country’s borders for Chinese money,” Hontiveros claimed.
“Kung sasabihin nating 1 million ang pumapasok gamit ang ‘pastillas’ system, one billion pesos na ang nabayad na kickbak,” the Senator explained. In the last hearing, BI revealed that 1.8 million Chinese nationals have entered the country in recent years.
“The lion’s share goes to the bosses,” Hontiveros told BI officials during the hearing. “Somebody rigged the system, centralized the operations, and made this into a billion-peso enterprise.
Pinapapasok ang mga Chinese nationals kapalit ng pera, effectively making us borderless,” she also added.
The Senator also vowed further investigation into the ‘pastillas’ system to weed out corrupt officials within the BI and propose policy changes.
“Hindi magiging ganito ka-systematic ang operasyon sa loob ng Bureau of Immigration kung walang padrino ang mga ito . Hindi magiging ganito ka-garapal ang mga ilegal na POGO operations kung walang protektor at kumikita ng milyon-milyon,” the Senator said. “Kailangan natin matunton kung sino ang pinaka-pinuno nitong scam na ito,” she aadded.
“Sabi nila maraming dalang investments itong POGO. Pero imbes na investment ang dala nitong POGO, bakit parang naging invasion?” the Senator concluded. (IA/sovereignph.com/PRIB)