NBI ordered to probe identity of body said to be Echanis

Robie de Guzman   •   August 11, 2020   •   556

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday said it has directed the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to determine the identity of the person slain in Novaliches, Quezon City, following claims that the deceased was peasant activist and peace consultant Randall Echanis and not Manuel Santiago as reported by police.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he also ordered the department’s special investigation team tasked to probe cause-oriented killings to look into Echanis’ killing.

He, however, stressed that the victim’s identity must be ascertained first before the task force starts its investigation due to “emerging confusion.”

He said he will refer the question on the identity of the body to the NBI Forensic Division.

Once the victim’s identity is verified, the Administrative Order (AO) 35 Task Force, which is assigned to investigate the killings of persons on account of their advocacies, will probe the incident.

The special investigation team was formed in 2012 pursuant to AO 35.

The Quezon City Police District earlier said that the person killed inside his rented apartment in Novaliches was a certain Manuel Santiago based on the identification card found in the scene and the landlord’s statement.

Another person, identified as Louie Tagapia, was also found dead along with Santiago.

The Anakpawis and other militant groups, however, claimed that one of the victims was Echanis, a peasant advocate and peace consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

The family also declared that the slain person was Echanis. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

NBI exec, brother face raps over alleged pastillas scam

Robie de Guzman   •   September 23, 2020

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)

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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Duterte to respect findings of Task Force PhilHealth – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   September 14, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte will respect the findings of the task force he created to probe the allegations of corruption hounding the Philippine Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), Malacañang said Monday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the task force was given fact-finding powers and he believes that the president will accept its probe results.

“Binigyan nga po niya ng kapangyarihan na maging fact-finding yung task force na binuo niya, and I think dahil siya naman po ang bumuo niyan, he will accept the factual-finding of his own task force,” he said.

The task force, which was formed in early August and headed by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, submitted to the chief executive its report on fraud and allegations against PhilHealth executives on Monday, Sept 14.

In a statement, Guevarra said the outcome of their 30-day investigation will “attempt to present the general environment at PhilHealth which enables fraud and corruption,” as well as the specific instances where fraudulent or corrupt acts have been perpetrated.

However, he did not divulge any details of the report or name of those they would recommend to be charged.

The task force last week concluded its hearings on the alleged anomalies within PhilHealth after interviewing several witnesses and resource persons, and gathered some documents. It also used the transcripts of records provided by Senate and House of Representatives panels that conducted separate investigation into the PhilHealth mess.

Its probe included the alleged inability of PhilHealth’s IT systems to detect fraudulent claims, and the thousands of cases against erring agency employees and healthcare institutions that have remained unfiled.

Although the task force has already concluded its probe, Guevarra said investigations and special audits on PhilHealth transactions will continue.

“But our composite teams will continue their ongoing investigations and special audits and file legal actions as they finish one case after another,” he said.

Task Force PhilHealth is a multi-agency team composed of representatives from the Office of the Ombudsman, Commission on Audit, Civil Service Commission and the Office of the President, Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission, Office of the Special Assistant to the President, Anti-Money Laundering Council, National Bureau of Investigation and the National Prosecution Service. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

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