‘Pastillas scheme’ whistleblower testifies in Senate

Marje Pelayo   •   February 20, 2020   •   1941

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)

Foreign kin of Filipinos need not present entry exemption docs starting August 1

Marje Pelayo   •   July 28, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Starting August 1, foreign spouses, children and parents of Filipino citizens who are traveling to the Philippines as tourists to visit their kin will no longer be required to present an entry exemption document (EED).

This new policy is in compliance with the latest resolution of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) which eased the entry travel requirements for foreigners related by marriage or filiation to Filipinos.

Under the new IATF resolution, foreign spouses, children and parents of Filipinos will only be required to present 9(a) tourist visas beginning on Saturday.

However, the IATF instructed the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to include in the visa of said aliens the notation: “EED not required per IATF Resolution No. 128 (s.2021).”

According to BI Commissioner Jaime Morente, foreigners whose Filipino spouses and children are currently in the Philippines will be able to easily visit and reunite with their loved ones.

Previously, these aliens were allowed entry into the Philippines only if they have valid 9(a) tourist visas as well as an EED issued by the DFA through its various embassies or consulates abroad.

Those who fail to secure and present either one of the two documents are excluded and turned back upon arrival at the ports of entry.

The BI chief stressed that the new travel guidelines apply only to foreigners who are not accompanied by their Filipino spouses or Filipino parents when going to the Philippines.

“Foreigners who are traveling with their Filipino spouses or parents are eligible for the Balikbayan program and they may be admitted visa-free for a one-year stay,” Morente said.

He explained that those who are not traveling with their Filipino principal must apply for a 9(A) tourist visa from a Philippine consulate abroad, which they would use for entry to the Philippines.

Immigration Bureau bars entry of passengers from 10 countries

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — After Malacañang’s directive, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) has announced expanding the entry ban of passengers which will include those coming from Malaysia and Thailand starting July 25 until July 31.

The two countries are now added to the eight countries that are temporarily banned entry to the Philippines to prevent the further spread and community transmission of emerging COVID-19 variants.

The other countries covered by the travel ban are India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Oman, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Indonesia.

“Foreigners arriving from said countries or with a travel history there within the last 14 days will be denied entry and will immediately be sent back to their port of origin,” according to BI Commissioner Jaime Morente.

However, the BI official said that Filipinos arriving from these countries as part of repatriation efforts will be allowed entry but will be subjected to set protocols by other government agencies.

He also clarified that those who are already in transit and will be arriving before July 25 will be allowed entry, but will be required to undergo a strict 14-day facility-based quarantine. AAC

BI warns foreign nationals against fake immigration services

Marje Pelayo   •   July 7, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Bureau of Immigration (BI) has warned the public against a circulating document from a Philippine-based company that is allegedly charging money to its employees, who are foreign nationals, for extra services that provide immigration assistance.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said he was able to obtain a copy of the said document which shows a breakdown of fees in exchange for immigration airport assistance.

Morente said based on the document, the company allegedly charged the following services with a hefty amount:
P5,000 for Airport Assistance Fee
P5,000 for processing fee
P20,000 for a Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Invitation Letter

“It seems that this company is using the name of government agencies to be able to charge such high rates to its employees,” he added.

The BI chief reiterated that the agency does not collect any ‘immigration assistance’ fees from foreign nationals.

The Immigration Bureau earlier released several advisories warning the public about individuals pretending to be BI employees involved in such fraudulent activities.

“Be wary of falling prey to these scammers. Immediately report to the authorities if you encounter such a modus,” Morente said, adding that they are now studying possible legal actions against said company.

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