‘Pastillas scheme’ whistleblower testifies in Senate

Marje Pelayo   •   February 20, 2020   •   1713

MANILA, Philippines – Allison Chiong, a frontline immigration officer 1 at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) appeared before the Senate inquiry on Thursday (February 20).

Chiong is the whistleblower who Senator Risa Hontiveros referred to as her informant of the bribery and corrupt practices dubbed as ‘pastillas’ scheme inside the Bureau of Immigration (BI).

Chiong’s main task as a frontline officer was to check the travel documents of departing and arriving passengers.

He confessed that the ‘pastillas scheme’ indeed exists.

“Pastillas is a Chinese money used to bribe Immigration officers so they can freely enter our country,” Chiong said.

It works when each arriving Chinese national ‘wraps’ P2,000 as payout in exchange for hassle-free entry into the Philippines.

According to Chiong, there were instances that Immigration officers allowed the entry of a blacklisted person at a price of P50,000 to P200,000.

High-profile fugitives, meanwhile, were priced of up to millions of pesos.

Chiong said he decided to record and expose a video of the scheme because the Filipino people deserved to know the truth.

Sukdulan na po. Gusto ko po i-expose talaga itong nangyayari sa Immigration (I’ve had enough. I really wanted to expose what’s really happening in the Immigration),” Chiong said.

During the Senate hearing, the whistleblower dropped the names of several Immigration officials who acted as leaders of the syndicate and manipulated the illegal operation.

He also disclosed the administrators of a chat group where accomplice travel agencies used to send the names of arriving Chinese nationals who should be given VIP treatment once they arrived in the country.

After po noong first hearing ninyo, noong in-expose po ninto ito, nag-dissolve agad sila. Siempre, magtatago iyan (After your first hearing where you exposed this matter, they dissolved the chat group immediately. Of course, they would hide right away). They would burrow underground,” Chiong said.

Ang feeling ko po ngayon is, wala. Nag-sacrifice na ako. (What I feel right now is blank. I already sacrificed.) I don’t think I can go back to my work as an information officer (because surely, the Bureau is already mad at me),” he added.

Senator Hontivero said they would summon the immigration officers that Chiong mentioned to question them of their participation in the said illegal activity and to expose other officials who have links in the ‘pastillas scheme.’

“May mabigat na latak sa kalooban ko na hindi kapani-paniwala na totally hindi nila alam (I am not totally convinced that they do not know about it),” Hontiveros said.

Pero napansin ko rin iyong sinabi ni Alex Chiong na wala kanina sa Session Hall ang mga opisyal na alam niyang kasangkot partikular ng Pastillas operation (But I noticed what Alex Chiong mentioned that none of those involved in the Pastillas operation was inside the Session Hall),” the lady senator said.

Hontiveros confirmed that Chiong was placed under the witness protection program.

Also, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo announced that President Rodrigo Duterte already ordered the relief of Immigration officials involved in the so-called ‘pastillas’ operations. – MNP (with details from Harlene Delgado)

Foreigners defying PH laws, quarantine rules may face deportation – BI

Robie de Guzman   •   April 6, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Foreign nationals who are violating quarantine rules set by the government’s inter-agency for COVID-19 response may be deported, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) warned.

In a statement, Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said foreigners staying in the country are expected to follow Philippine laws, and blatant disregard of rules and persons of authority may result in their deportation.

It can be recalled that last year, the bureau blacklisted a Spanish national for allegedly violating the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) policies and for hurling expletives at a police officer who advised the foreigner’s helper to wear a face mask while watering the plants outside of their house in a Makati Village.

Morente reiterated that aliens who disrespect persons of authority may be considered undesirable aliens.

“Foreign nationals who disrespect symbols of our country and persons of authority are not welcome in the Philippines,” he said.

The bureau also disclosed they are probing reports about some foreign executives of companies in the Philippines who allegedly violate quarantine protocols in their workplaces.

“We will be conducting an investigation on these reports, and if found with merit, will file immigration cases against aliens involved,” the BI said.

Immigration Bureau scales down operation in areas under NCR Plus

Aileen Cerrudo   •   March 31, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—The Bureau of Immigration (BI) has ordered to scale down its operations in the National Capital Region (NCR) Plus amid the implementation of Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ).

The BI said this is to prevent coronavirus disease (COVID-19) transmission in workplaces.

In an advisory, Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente announced BI offices in Metro Manila, Laguna, Rizal, Cavite, and Bulacan, will operate on a skeleton workforce and on shortened working hours, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. until April 4 or until the national government has lifted the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ).

The agency also advised its workers who are pregnant and those with immune deficiency, comorbidity, and other serious health problems to work from home instead of going to offices.

However, Morente said the working arrangement does not apply to BI personnel assigned at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

Employees in NAIA will report for duty on three shifts daily and ensure that all international flights are served and processed by immigration officers without interruption.

“Nonetheless, we have also instructed our port operations division (POD) to temporarily reduce the number of its personnel reporting for duty in each shift and lessen the number of their duty days until such time that the surge of the coronavirus is contained,” he said.

The directive followed the announcement about limiting passenger capacity at NAIA to a maximum of 1,500 passengers per day. -AAC

Foreign parents of Filipinos with valid visas may enter PH, BI says

Robie de Guzman   •   March 29, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Foreign parents of Filipino citizens who have valid visas and are traveling with their children may now enter the Philippines, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said Monday.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said that the new rules are pursuant to the latest resolution issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID).

He, however, stressed that foreign parents of Filipino children cannot travel alone to the country even if they are carrying valid visas.

“If they are traveling alone, they will not be allowed entry even if they hold valid visas as the rules provide that they must be traveling with their Philippine spouse or children,” Morente said in a statement.

Earlier, only foreign spouses and children of Filipinos who are traveling with them and who hold valid visas are exempted from the travel ban which the government had imposed on all foreign nationals from March 22 to April 20, 2021.

Meanwhile, Morente also clarified that foreign seafarers arriving via the seaports are not prohibited from entering the country so long as they, too, possess the required seaman’s visa or crew list visa.

“We welcome the exemption of foreign seafarers from the travel ban as the Philippines is one of the countries in Asia that has opened a ‘green lane’ for these sailors,” he said.

According to BI Bay Service Section chief Alnazib Decampong, the green lane project was launched by the government to promote the Philippines as a hub for crew change of international maritime vessels and facilitate the free movement of sailors in the region during the pandemic.

He said these crew change hubs are located in the ports of Manila, Bataan, Batangas, Subic, Cebu, and Davao.

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