Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima welcomed the filing of a Senate Committee Report recommending the criminal prosecution of current and former immigration personnel allegedly involved in the so-called “Pastillas Scam.”
De Lima also urged her colleagues to adopt Committee Report No. 542, which was filed after the two-year probe on the scam by the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality chaired by Sen. Risa Hontiveros.
“I congratulate Sen. Risa Hontiveros and my colleagues in the Senate on the filing of Committee Report No. 542 on the infamous “Pastillas Scam”, she said.
“I call on my colleagues to adopt this Report at the soonest possible opportunity so that our country will know that this Senate did not stand idly by while corruption pervades in this government. Tumindig po tayo lagi laban sa korapsyon,” she added.
The Committee Report was filed last January 27, and was signed by all 11 members and ex-officio members of the panel, including De Lima.
The Report noted that the combined revenue streams from the Pastillas kickbacks and the visa-upon-arrival (VUA) kickbacks is estimated to be in the billions of pesos with the bulk earned by the father and son tandem of Maynardo Mariñas and former port operations chief Marc Red Mariñas, with other Bureau of Immigration (BI) employees under their instruction and command.
According to the Report, the Mariñases and several other BI officials and employees should face criminal cases for violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003, the plunder law, and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
Notably, Senators also recommended further investigation on former justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre for his appointment of Red Mariñas and his issuance of Department No. 41, which gave the father and son tandem wide discretion over the approval of VUAs.
The “Pastillas Scam” was an illegal operation that allowed the entry of mostly Chinese nationals, mainly workers for Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs), with hardly any scrutiny in exchange for bribes to corrupt immigration officers at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
It can be noted that the scam was named as such because the bribe money was usually rolled up like the popular Filipino milk-based candy “pastillas”.
De Lima, a social justice and human rights champion, said the Committee’s investigation was “methodical, thorough and ultimately effective in ferreting out the truth behind the scam that compromised our border control and allowed trafficking and prostitution to happen.
“The Committee’s findings were significant. The allegations that about 90% of the immigration officers are in on the scam show that there is an endemic, institutional and malignant culture of corruption in the Bureau of Immigration (BI). This allowed practically unregulated entry in our country by unwelcome foreigners for a fee,” she stated.
“Sa maraming pagkakataon, itong mga foreigners pa na pinalusot ang gumagawa ng krimen sa atin gaya ng pang-aabuso sa ating mga kababayan at human trafficking,” she added.
In spite of these damning revelations by witnesses, this administration remains unmoved, and to date has not done anything to solve this problem.
“Ang pinakamalala pa, tuwirang sinabi ng mga testigo na si dating DOJ Sec. Vitaliano Aguirre ang tumayong protector at padrino ni Marc Red Mariñas na sinasabing ring leader o pangunahing nagpapatakbo ng scam sa BI. Nagmistulang inutil si BI Commissioner Morente dahil ang dating boss niya mismo ang pumipigil sa kaniya na aksyunan ang mga kalokohang nangyayari sa kaniyang opisina,” she said.
“Hindi gaya ng mga pekeng imbestigasyon laban sa akin, malinaw ang pagtukoy sa posibleng kaso laban kina Aguirre at sa mga tauhan niya sa BI,” she added. (30)