Bureau of Immigration

PH kicks out over 2,700 Chinese, 45 Immigration staff suspended in pastillas scam

Lian Buan
PH kicks out over 2,700 Chinese, 45 Immigration staff suspended in pastillas scam

Senate hearing screenshot

(UPDATED) The alleged scam 'mastermind,' Marc Red Mariñas, is not included in the preventive suspension order

Ombudsman Samuel Martires has imposed a 6-month preventive suspension without pay on 45 Bureau of Immigration (BI) officials and personnel involved in the so-called pastillas scam or an allegedly elaborate scheme to extort foreigners, mostly Chinese, for easy entry to the Philippines.

Martires signed the order on Monday, October 26, and it was forwarded to Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente to implement. The term “pastillas” was derived from the alleged manner in which erring officials wrapped extorted money in the form of pastillas, a Filipino pastry.

Morente announced on Tuesday, October 27, that the BI ordered 2,736 overstaying Chinese nationals to leave the country for visa violation.

The pastillas scam, which the Senate has been investigating, involves the controversial Visa-Upon-Arrival or VUA scheme which was instituted during the time of resigned justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II.

When the scam broke out last year, the Department of Justice (DOJ) under Menardo Guevarra limited VUAs for Chinese tourists so it would only be valid for 30 days without provision for extension.

“From January to October, a total of 2,736 Chinese nationals who were granted visas upon arrival but failed to leave on their scheduled departure date, were given orders to leave,” Morente said in an announcement.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, the lead in the Senate investigations, said that abuses in the VUA scheme combined with the pastillas scam have enabled “masterminds” to  amass up to P40 billion in kickbacks.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) had sued for graft 19 BI officials, including Immigration Officer Jeffrey Dale Ignacio who has since turned whistleblower.

Hontiveros appealed to the Ombudsman to remove Ignacio from the preventive suspension order.

“I hope the Ombudsman can consider reversing this order against Dale as his testimony, which completed the picture of the corrupt system in the BI, has been invaluable in our Senate probe as well as the NBI’s own investigation,” Hontiveros said in a statement on Wednesday, October 28.

No Mariñas

Ignacio has appeared before Senate investigations saying there are “big fish” not included in the NBI’s complaint.

A supposed big fish missing in the complaint is former BI Port Operations Division Marc Red Mariñas. Mariñas was not included in the Ombudsman’s preventive suspension order.

Ignacio had told the Senate that he heard Mariñas bragging of a “contact” in the Ombudsman. Martires told reporters that Ignacio must give the Ombudsman a lead.

““I’m not saying that Mariñas has no contact, all I’m saying is that it seems impossible for him to enter our premises. But if Mariñas has a contact in the ombudsman, according to Ignacio, then let Ignacio identify who that person is, give us a lead. Don’t be unfair to the employees of the ombudsman,” Martires said.

The preventive suspension was imposed on the 19 officials in the NBI complaint, and 26 others, for a total of 45.

Here are their names:

  • Erwin Ortañez
  • Grifton Medina
  • Glenn Comia
  • Benlado “Bien” Guevarra
  • Danieve Binsol
  • Deon Albao
  • Arlan Edward Mendoza
  • Anthony Lopez
  • Cecille Jonathan Orozco
  • Dennis Robles
  • Bradford Allen So
  • Vincent Bryan Allas
  • Rodolfo Magbuhos Jr
  • German Robin
  • Gabriel Estacio
  • Ralph Ryan Garcia
  • Ralph M. Garcia
  • Phol Villanueva
  • Abdul Fahad Calaca
  • Danilo Deudor
  • Mark Macababad
  • Aurelio Somera Lucero III
  • George Bituin
  • Salahudin Hadjinoor
  • Cherry Pie Payabyab Ricolcol
  • Chevy Chase Naniong
  • Carl Jordan Perez
  • Abdulhafez Dela Tonga Hadjibasher
  • Jeffrey Dale Ignacio
  • Juan Carlo Gomez
  • Clint John Simene
  • Jhayson Abelda
  • Asliyah Maruhom
  • Jan Christian De Villa
  • Jessica Anne Salvador
  • Jennifer Timbreza
  • Robern Michael Sarmiento
  • Maria Victoria Jogno
  • Catherine Mendoza
  • Lorenz Arlei Bontia
  • Paul Borja
  • Hamza Pacasum
  • Manuel Brillante Sarmiento III
  • Fidel Mendoza
  • Dimple Mayumi Mallari

– Rappler.com

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.