CEBU CITY, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) has relieved the heads of the terminals at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and the head of its Travel Control and Enforcement Unit, as it investigates an alleged bribery scheme that has supposedly faciliated the smooth entry of Chinese workers of Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) in the country.
BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval confirmed this in a text message to Rappler on Tuesday, February 18. She declined to name the people involved pending investigation.
“For prudence I am unable to release the names of those relieved as they t,” Sandoval said.
“It might be best to wait for the results of the investigation of the fact finding committee,” she added.
The alleged bribery scheme was the subject of a Senate inquiry, led by Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday. (READ: ‘Magkano at hanggang kanino?’: Hontiveros reveals bribery in entry of POGO workers)
According to informants of Hontiveros’ office, the BI allegedly allowed the entry of thousands of POGO workers for a fee of P10,000 per person. (READ: LOOK: How syndicates, airport officials split P10,000 bribe from POGO workers)
Hontiveros said this scheme was called “pastillas” because payouts were rolled into bond paper, resembling the popular Filipino sweet.
During the hearing, BI officials claimed it was their first time to hear about the practice.
A separate Rappler source said, however, that the figures and breakdown provided by the senator was “more or less” accurate. Hontiveros also presented links between the influx of POGO workers and the rise of sex trafficking in Manila. – with reports from Michelle Abad and Lian Buan/Rappler.com