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Pastillas corruption raps vs. 86 more BI execs

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed graft cases against 86 more officials and personnel of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) for their involvement in the illegal entry of foreign nationals under the so-called “pastillas” scam. 

The second batch of graft and administrative complaints before the Office of the Ombudsman against for their alleged involvement in the “pastillas” scheme. 

Atty. Emeterio Donggallo Jr., head of the NBI-Special Action Unit, identified eight high-ranking Immigration officials as core members of the “pastillas” group, while tagging Immigration Officer 2 Marc Red Mariñas, ex-port operations division chief, as the brains behind the scheme. 

Among those charged for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act include Mariñas; Grifton San Pedro Medina, ex-operations division acting chief; Glennford Comia, Travel Control and Enforcement Unit (TECU) head at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport 1; Erwin Ortañez, Border Control Intelligence Unit chief, and Er German Robin, TCEU operations deputy head from 2017 to 2019. They and others accused also face dismissal from service. 

The NBI told Ombudsman Samuel Martires that Immigration Officer Dale Ignacio will turn state witness, thus should be excluded from the list of those criminally charged. 

All NAIA terminal heads (NAIA 1, 2 and 3) of TECU and the over-all head of BI Border Control and Intelligence Unit were also included in the complaint. 

Many of the accused reportedly received cash bribes, gifts and other benefits, including sexual favors from foreign women. 

Donggallo said the graft and administrative complaint against the 86 immigration employees are based on revelations and evidence provided by Ignacio, a second whistle-blower. 

Statements of the first whistleblower, Allison Chiong, were corroborated by Ignacio, according to the NBI. 

Chiong revealed during a Senate hearing that 90% of bureau personnel were involved in the “pastillas” scheme that allowed Chinese nationals to illegally enter the Philippines in exchange for cash. 

Last October, Martires suspended 45 immigration officials (preventive suspension without pay for six months) in connection with the scheme. 

NBI Director Eric Distor said he will also file charges against private individuals, travel agencies and possible protectors of the pastillas group. 

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said the bureau is instituting a one-strike policy against corrupt employees, directing the newly-reconstituted Board of Discipline (BoD) to “carefully assess complaints and reports against erring personnel”. 

Complaints found to have merit will be forwarded to the Department of Justice for the filing of administrative cases. 

Since 2016, 131 personnel have been suspended, dismissed and dropped from the rolls for various offenses. 

Atty. Ronaldo P. Ledesma, who was a former BI OIC commissioner and OIC deputy commissioner, currently heads the BoD, supported by five lawyers assigned by the DOJ. 

Under the one-strike policy, erring personnel subject to complaints and investigations will be relieved from their posts immediately. 

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