NBI exec, brother face raps over alleged pastillas scam

Robie de Guzman   •   September 23, 2020   •   236

MANILA, Philippines – The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has filed graft and extortion complaints against its official and his brother from the Bureau of Immigration (BI) over the alleged ‘pastillas scheme.’

Atty. Joshua Paul Capiral, NBI’s legal assistance chief, and his brother, Christopher John, an officer at the BI’s medical section, underwent inquest proceedings at the Department of Justice on Wednesday morning.

The brothers are facing extortion complaints under the Revised Penal Code, and violation of the Anti-Graft Practices Act, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees and the Executive Order No. 608 which established the national security clearance system for government personnel with access to classified matters.

The two were arrested in an entrapment operation on Monday night for allegedly receiving bribes from individuals implicated in the pastillas scheme in exchange for exclusion from the charges.

Nineteen Immigration officers allegedly linked to the pastillas scheme are currently facing charges filed by the NBI at the Office of the Ombudsman last month.

The modus was called pastillas, derived from a Filipino sweet and sticky dessert, because the bribe money that some personnel receive were wrapped in paper.

The scheme allegedly takes advantage of Chinese casino high-rollers and offshore gaming workers who wish to be escorted to dodge the immigration screening process for a fee.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he has ordered a reinvestigation into the pastillas scheme.

“Considering that the NBI investigation appeared to have been tainted, I will order a reinvestigation of the so-called ‘pastillas’ racket involving some unscrupulous BI employees,” he said in message to reporters.

Meanwhile, Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente welcomed the development and assured support for the drive to cleanse the agency of corruption.

Morente also vowed to continue its campaign against corruption activities within the agency.

“We will continue to pursue our campaign against BI personnel engaged in corrupt activities in coordination with NBI and other law enforcement agencies in support of President Duterte’s desire to cleanse the agency,” he said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

Whistle blower says ‘pastillas’ scam masterminds have ‘contact’ in Ombudsman’s office

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 6, 2020

Pastillas scam whistleblower, Immigration Officer II Jeffrey Dale Ignacio

Alleged masterminds of the money-making “pastillas” scheme at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) claimed to have a contact in the Office of the Ombudsman, according to the new whistleblower, Immigration Officer II Jeffrey Dale Ignacio.

During the hearing on Tuesday (October 6), Ignacio admitted to having been a member of the “pastillas gang” and tagged former deputy commissioner Marc Red Mariñas as one of the alleged leaders of the operation who purportedly has a “contact” in the Office of the Ombudsman.

Ang naalala ko po ay sinabi ni Sir Red na may contact daw sila sa Ombudsman. Sabi pa ni Sir Red, sana daw matapos bago ang filing of candidacy (I remember Sir Red telling us that they have a contact in the [Office of the Ombudsman]. Sir Red also said that hopefully, [the investigation] would be over before the filing of candidacy),” he said.

Ignacio said he was forced to join the group in 2017 as a foot soldier like the first witness, Allison Chiong. He also confirmed Chiong’s statement that they would receive P5,000 to P20,000 per week for the “VIP Treatment” of Chinese nationals who paid bribes dubbed as “pastillas” because the money given to immigration officers were rolled in white bond paper similar to a Filipino milk candy of the same name.

He also revealed that Mariñas’ lawyers told them not to answer the subpoena submitted by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). NBI legal assistance division Atty. Joshua Capiral was also tagged to have been involved in bribing them in exchange for being excluded from charges.

Capiral was arrested by the NBI last September 21 during an entrapment operation for accepting bribe from immigration officers allegedly involved in the “pastillas scheme”.

Meanwhile, former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II denied the claims of columnist Ramon Tulfo that he assigned Mariñas’ father, Maynardo Mariñas as Special Operations and Communications head at the Bureau of Immigration (BI). Aguirre said he only assigned Red Mariñas as Port Operations Division chief.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, chair of the committee leading the investigation, asked Aguirre if he knew about Maynardo Mariñas’ position.

“Hindi nga po nagma-micromanage, hindi ko po alam iyan. Wala naman pong conflict of interest diyan (I don’t micromanage, I know nothing. There is no conflict of interest there),” he said.

Hontiveros also said Senate President Vicente Sotto III has already approved the provision of legislative immunity to Ignacio while four individuals who were subpoenaed for their alleged involvement in the scheme were cited in contempt for not attending the hearing. AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

Drilon wants NBI legal exec tagged in ‘pastillas scheme’ disbarred

Robie de Guzman   •   September 23, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Frankiln Drilon on Wednesday urged the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to file a disbarment case against its official who was arrested for his alleged involvement in the ‘pastillas scheme’ in the Bureau of Immigration.

Drilon made the call following the arrest of Atty. Joshua Capiral, NBI’s head of legal assistance division, for allegedly accepting bribes from persons involved in the modus in exchange for exclusion from charges.

“Bantay salakay ang tawag dito. Yung inatasan na mag-imbestiga sa katiwalian sila yung gumagawa ng katiwalian,” he said in an interview over Teleradyo.

“He is a disgrace to the legal profession. We lawyers took an oath to tell nothing but the truth. Capiral violated that sacred oath of lawyers. All he did in the NBI is to enrich himself through corruption,” he added.

When asked whether the case of Capiral warrants a Senate investigation, Drilon said he will support an investigation if there is evidence of massive corruption in NBI – like in the case of PhilHealth and the Bureau of Immigration.

“At this point I think there is no evidence of massive corruption in the NBI. This is a laudable move for the NBI to arrest one of its members. The NBI should make an example out of Capiral that corruption has no place in the agency,” Drilon said.

“If we do not address this, everybody will believe that they can bribe the NBI and having that perception is not good in the fight against corruption,” he added.

Capiral was nabbed in an entrapment operation on Monday night. He underwent inquest proceedings at the Department of Justice on Wednesday morning.

The two are facing complaints for extortion under the Revised Penal Code and violation of the Anti-Graft Practices Act, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employee, and Executive Order No. 608 which established a national security clearance system for government personnel with access to classified matters.

Drilon said that Capiral’s case is among the reasons why the public tend to lose confidence in the government’s ability to stop corruption.

“This is one of the reasons why Filipinos are losing faith in the ability of the government to fight corruption. This only shows how rampant corruption is today,” he said.

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Aguirre denies links to ‘pastillas scheme’

Robie de Guzman   •   September 22, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Tuesday denied allegations that he is the protector of the group behind the so-called pastillas scheme in the Bureau of Immigration (BI).

During the resumption of the Senate probe on the issue, Aguirre refuted media practitioner Ramon Tulfo Jr.’s claims, saying it was only fueled by “vendetta and dirty politics.”

Aguirre said Tulfo’s accusations against him might be connected to the time when he was still DOJ secretary and he denied the latter’s request to consolidate his libel cases.

Aguirre served as Secretary of Justice from 2016 to 2018.

In March this year, Tulfo accused Aguirre of involvement in the pastillas scheme after he placed the father and son tandem of Maynardo and Red Mariñas to head the visa upon arrival system in the country. Tulfo also claimed that a chopper regularly delivers kickback from the scheme to Aguirre’s hometown in Mulanay, Quezon.

The former secretary, however, denied Tulfo’s allegations.

“Alam mo, kapag ikaw sumulat ng anuman o mag-akusa ng anuman na wala kang ebidensya, malicious yan, Tulfo!” Aguirre said during the hearing.

“Kung totoo ‘yang sinasabi mo, hindi ba yan Mr. Tulfo na dapat yan ay ililhim mo? Para walang makakitang ibang tao. Pero kabaliktaran, ginagawa mo akong isang istupidong Department of Justice secretary na ipagwawadwaran ko pa ang mga panunuhol sa akin,” he added.

He also reasoned that he already resigned from the post when the issue surfaced.

“As such, I am bereft of power or authority to control, much less head, a syndicate operating in the BI,” he said.

Aside from Aguirre and Tulfo, whistleblower Allison Chiong also attended the probe.

He told senators that high-ranking officials including those in the travel control and enforcement unit and terminal heads at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport who are allegedly involved in the scheme have yet to face charges.

“Sa immigration po kasi, itong term na boss, napaka parang broad… Oh halimbawa ah, ‘sabi ng mga boss, i-check niyo daw muna sa loob kasi nagmamanman ang NBI diyan. So lahat ang checking sa loob. Wala po dito ‘yun. Wala dito ‘yung mga boss,” he said.

Nineteen Immigration officers allegedly linked to the pastillas scheme are currently facing charges filed by the National Bureau of Investigation at the Office of the Ombudsman.

The modus was called pastillas, derived from a Filipino sweet and sticky dessert, because the bribe money that some personnel receive were concealed inside rolled up papers.

The scheme allegedly takes advantage of Chinese casino high-rollers and offshore gaming workers who wish to be escorted to dodge the immigration screening process for a fee.

According to Senator Risa Hontivers, chairperson of the Senate committee on women, children family relations and gender equality that has been conducting the probe, the panel will study recommendations to implement a reshuffle in the Immigration bureau, and suspend officers who are facing charges as well as those involved in the visa upon arrival system. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

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