(FEBRUARY 21, 2020) – Authorities have placed under witness protection an immigration officer who helped expose a bribery scheme, called “Pastillas” at the border protection agency, the justice secretary said on Friday.
Menardo Guevarra said the whistle blower, Allison Chiong, was turned over the department’s Witness Protection Program upon the requests of Senators Vicente Sotto III and Risa Hontiveros for his own security and safety.
At an earlier Senate inquiry, Chiong gave lawmakers details of how bribery is done at the immigration counters at the country’s main airports.
He said Chinese nationals recruited to work for offshore gaming operations pay immigration officers a “facilitation fee” of 10,000 pesos to get VIP treatment at airport immigration counters. The payment is called pastillas.
“He will be evaluated thoroughly by the WPP before he could be considered for full coverage,” Guevarra said.
He said he personally took the video, which was played during the Senate hearing, showing how the scheme was done.
Chiong said it was taken around July 2019, but he had noticed an increase of Chinese arrival since 2017.
The bribery scheme was called “Pastillas” because of the manner in which the money is handed down to the immigration officers.
“Bandang una, binabalot pa ‘yan sa bond paper. Tapos nagtatawanan ‘yung mga tao kapag binibigay, mukha raw pastillas,” Chiong said.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo in an interview Friday morning said BI Commissioner Jaime Morente is still not in the clear on the matter.
Morente and all BI employees need to be assessed, he said.
“Everyone is not off the hook. The confidence is there until contrary statement is made by the President,” the spokesman said, adding the fate of Morente will be tackled in the next Cabinet meeting.
On Thursday, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the sacking of all officials and employees involved in the bribery scheme but defended Morante’s integrity. (Randell Ritumalta/MM)
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