‘Pastillas scheme’ whistleblower testifies in Senate

Marje Pelayo   •   February 20, 2020   •   2144

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)

BI personnel reminded of policy vs posting TikTok videos in uniform

Robie de Guzman   •   October 25, 2021

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Monday warned its personnel anew against posting videos of themselves performing acts while in uniform.

In a statement, the BI said that officers assigned at the international airports should strictly comply with the directive banning them from posting videos of themselves dancing or singing while on duty, particularly on video-sharing network service TikTok.

In a memorandum to all BI port personnel, Immigration port operations chief Atty. Carlos Capulong warned that employees defying the ban will face administrative cases for insubordination and misconduct.

Capulong said BI Commissioner Jaime Morente has ordered him to investigate reports that some bureau employees assigned at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) continue to post videos on TikTok which were taken while they were on duty and wearing their official uniform.

“I was instructed by Commissioner Morente to hold these errant employees liable by forwarding their cases to our board of discipline for investigation and filing of the appropriate administrative cases,” he added.

The BI personnel were also reminded to strictly observe the ban on the use of cellular phones and other electronic gadgets while on duty.

Capulong said the TikTok videos of BI employees in uniform could not have been taken if the latter were not on duty at the time, thus it is obvious that they had their mobile phones and gadgets with them.

It was in December last year that Morente first barred BI employees in uniform from posting on TikTok, saying the act denigrates the bureau as an institution and unbecoming of government employees who should always conduct themselves with professionalism and integrity.

“Our policy on the wearing of the BI uniform is clear. As public servants, employees must proudly wear their uniform at all times, present a professional image to the public and observe proper decorum and good taste in all their actions while they are on duty,” Morente said in a memorandum.

He stressed that such acts undermine the BI’s reputation and create a negative image for the agency’s personnel, especially its frontline immigration officers.

Immigration personnel barred from engaging in political activities – Morente

Robie de Guzman   •   October 13, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Tuesday reminded its employees to refrain from actively engaging in partisan political activities whether offline or on social media.

In a statement, Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said that employees are prohibited from campaigning actively and soliciting votes and support for their election bets as mandated by the law.

“This election season, as public servants, we are expected to remain politically neutral as this is mandated by law,” he said.

The 1987 Philippine Constitution defines election campaign or partisan political activity as “any act designed to promote the election or defeat of a particular candidate or party to public office.”

Morente also said that the mere wearing of shirts, caps, or pins showing the names and faces of the candidates is prohibited according to advisories from the Civil Service Commission and the Commission on Elections.

“This shall cover all our employees, whether they are permanent, or contractual,” he added.

He also reminded BI employees to “adhere to the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees with respect to their actions online, and use good judgment in sharing information.”

Morente warned that officers found engaging in partisan political activities will be penalized with one month and one day suspension to six months for the first offense.

Immigration bureau reshuffles 341 NAIA personnel to curb corruption

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 5, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—The Bureau of Immigration (BI) has reshuffled 341 personnel of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

These personnel will be reporting to their new terminal assignments as part of the agency’s continuing campaign to curb corruption.

Aside from BI officers manning NAIA’s immigration counters, the agency will also rotate the terminal assignments of 77 immigration supervisors assigned at the airport.

BI acting port operations chief Carlos Capulong said Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente has approved the  implementation of the rotation scheme at the premiere port on October 3.

“This will be the last rotation of our NAIA personnel this year as the next reshuffle will be implemented during the first quarter of 2022,” Capulong said.

Morente previously announced that the Bureau is fast tracking the recruitment of nearly 200 new BI officers who will be deployed to NAIA and other major ports early next year.

This is in response to the need of the agency to field more immigration inspectors after the Department of Transportation (DOTr) said it was considering to raise the daily cap on passenger arrival, and reopen other airports to international travel. AAC (with reports from Asher Cadapan Jr.)

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