NBI urged to probe alleged new ‘pastillas’ scheme in Immigration bureau

Robie de Guzman   •   February 22, 2021   •   497

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday called on the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to look into the alleged new ‘pastillas’ scam involving a travel agency where Chinese nationals allegedly pay P550,00 each for their ‘seamless’ entry to the country.

Hontiveros made the call following the recent arrest of a person for supposedly receiving money to process the documents of three Chinese nationals in the Bureau of Immigration.

“Akala ko COVID-19 lang ang nagmumutate, pati pastillas scam narin pala. Dati pang kasabwat sa korapsyon sa Bureau of Immigration (BI) ang mga travel agencies sa ilegal na pagpapasok ng mga Chinese,” Hontiveros said in a statement.

May pandemya na, nagpapakasasa pa rin ang mga nansasamantala,” she added.

In an operation conducted last week, the NBI entrapped Vivian Lara, a liaison officer who was caught receiving P900,000 to process the papers of three Chinese nationals inside the office of BI prosecutor Atty. Arnulfo Maminta.

The Chinese nationals, Lara said, are clients of a travel agency.

“Mga Chinese na may mga criminal record nakakapasok dahil sa sabwatan ng travel agency at ng mga korap sa BI. I’ve called for a BI overhaul before and this needs to happen now as it seems the new scam features the same cast of characters,” Hontiveros said.

Last year, Hontiveros led a series of Senate investigations on the ‘pastillas’ scam that involved alleged corrupt BI officials receiving bribes for every unchecked entry of a Chinese national.

Also uncovered in the previous hearing were travel agencies that offered help to Chinese nationals who want their names removed from the BI’s blacklist for a price.

“This is a direct threat to our national security. We’ve already established that Chinese syndicates have exploited our women and children, among many other unspeakable crimes. Isa sa mga pasimuno ng pagpapasok sa kanila ay mga travel agencies na dati pa ay nagbebenta na ng fake passorts at iba pang pekeng government documents para sa mga Chinese,” Hontiveros said.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente earlier said he has ordered an investigation into the incident and the possible cohorts of Lara within the bureau. He also said that he has tapped the NBI to conduct the probe.

Meanwhile, Hontiveros renewed her call to permanently abolish the Visa Upon Arrival (VUA) system for Chinese nationals, which most syndicates use to allegedly traffic women into the country.

She also said that Chinese visitors should enter the country through channels monitored by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

“Dapat matapos na ang VUA. Dapat masibak na ang mga bulok na opisyal sa BI. Dapat mapanagot na ang mga travel agencies. Dapat magkaroon na bakuna kontra korapsyon dahil baka ito pa ang ikamamatay ng Pilipino,” Hontiveros said.

3 nabbed for illegal sale of COVID-19 drugs in Pasay

Robie de Guzman   •   October 5, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Three individuals accused of engaging in unauthorized selling of medicines used to treat novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) were arrested in Pasay City, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said Tuesday.

NBI Officer-In-Charge (OIC) director Eric Distor identified the suspects as Karen Amero, Ronaldo Ceriola, and Erickson Soriano.

Distor said the NBI launched the operation after it received a request for investigation and possible entrapment operation from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the alleged illegal sale of COVID-19 drugs such as Remdesivir, Tocilizumab, Baricitinib among others.

The medicines are allegedly being sold thru online platforms such as Facebook, Shopee, and Lazada.

According to FDA Advisory No. 2021-0759, Remdesivir is not approved by FDA for treatment of COVID-19 and has not been granted yet with Certificate of Product Registration (CPR). This means that the said medicine cannot be marketed commercially.

In addition, the use of Remdesivir for a limited amount and for a particular patient may only be allowed in hospitals or physicians who are granted with a Compassionate Special Permit (CSP).

The NBI said a test-buy conducted by FDA personnel on September 14, 2021 confirmed the unauthorized selling of Remdesivir by the suspects.

“After proper coordination with the concerned authorities, NBI-AGD operatives conducted the buy-bust operation on September 28, 2021 at the premises of Crestly Building located at Perla St., Pasay City resulting in the arrest of the subjects,” the agency said.

The NBI said that during the conduct of inspection, several medicines were found in the area with Ceriola and Soriano, who introduced themselves as delivery riders of LMCSL Trading.

Amero, who introduced herself as office manager of LMCSL Trading, resisted the arrest claiming that they have necessary license from FDA relative to the product they sell. She even proceeded to her unit located at the ground floor of Crestly Building to show her alleged license.

However, verification by the FDA revealed that it is the LMCSL Trading located at Caroyroyan, Pili, Camarines Sur has the existing License to Operate and not the one located at Crestly Building, Pasay City where the buy-bust operation took place.

Recovered from the suspects are various types of medicines including Ivirem-Remdesivir.

The suspects are facing charges for violation of Section 11(a), (j), and (k) of RA 3720 as amended by RA 9711 otherwise known as the Food and Drug Administration Act of 2009 and violation of Section 45(a) and (p) of RA 10918 otherwise known as the Philippine Pharmacy Act.

They are currently under the custody of NBI Detention Facility in Manila.

Suspected Abu Sayyaf member nabbed in Quezon City

Robie de Guzman   •   September 15, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Wednesday said it has arrested an Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) member in an operation conducted in Culiat, Quezon City last week.

NBI officer-in-charge, director Eric Distor identified the suspect as Albazir Abdulla alias Abu Saif.

The operatives of the NBI-Counter Terrorism Division (CTD) arrested Abdulla, who is facing kidnapping and serious illegal detention charges for his alleged involvement in the 2001 Golden Harvest Plantation kidnapping case.

The operation was launched after NBI sources reported sightings of Abdulla in Metro Manila. A victim-witness also identified him in a CTD photo line-up as one of the abductors and a member of the ASG.

A series of casing and surveillance operations was conducted by the NBI-CTD in coordination with counterparts from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), to gather more information, which revealed the actual residence of Abdulla.

The arrested suspect was brought to NBI Detention Facility.

Distor said Abdulla is the second ASG member they arrested in Metro Manila this year. In May, operatives nabbed alleged ASG member Wahab Jamal alis Ustadz Halipa at Maharlika Village in Taguig.

The NBI said that the ASG group headed by their late leader Isnilon Hapilon and other senior ASG leaders raided the Golden Harvest Plantation in Brgy. Tairan, Lantawan, Basilan Province.

The terrorists seized the supplies from sari-sari stores and houses; livestock, firearms and ammunition from the plantation security. They also burned a chapel and detained 14 plantation workers, two of whom were beheaded by the terrorist group.

After four months of captivity, the victims were able to escape on separate occasions during the rescue operations by the government security forces.

After the incident, the ASG stayed in the mountains and some of its members assimilated back to society as “sleepers” or “spies,” the NBI said.

PNP welcomes NBI findings on QC ‘misencounter’

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 7, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine National Police (PNP) said it welcomes the findings of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) regarding the so-called “misencounter” between the national police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

The PNP assured that all its personnel involved are fully accounted for and would be made available should the Department of Justice require their participation in the conduct of its own review with regard to the findings submitted by the NBI.

On Monday (September 7), the NBI has recommended filing charges against 12 Quezon City policemen for their involvement in the “misencounter” during an illegal drugs operation last February 24 in Quezon City.

The national police, in a statement, also said that the incident has paved the way in clearing the gray areas in the coordination protocol and in outlining improvements and institutionalization of measures to prevent the repeat of the incident.

The Memorandum Circular, entitled Unified Coordination Guidelines in the Conduct of Anti-Illegal Drugs Operation was signed by the PNP chief and the PDEA Director General last July.

“The Philippine National Police commits to honoring and institutionalizing the PDEA-PNP Memorandum Circular as both law enforcement agencies aspire to put an end to the illegal drugs menace in the country,” the statement read. AAC

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