The Office of the Ombudsman has filed graft charges against 42 Bureau of Immigration (BI) employees for their alleged involvement in the so-called “pastillas” bribery scam that led to the illegal entry of numerous Chinese citizens into the country.
Meanwhile, the Department of Justice (DOJ) will soon issue a resolution on the administrative cases against the BI officials and personnel implicated in the irregularity.
In a 17-page information, the Ombudsman charged that former Deputy Commissioner Marc Mariñas of the Port Operations Division connived with other immigration personnel and Liya Wu of Empire International Travel and Tours to “willfully, unlawfully and give unwarranted benefits, preference or advantage to foreign passengers, particularly Chinese nationals.”
“Bosses or Chinese suppliers acted as conduits between the travel agencies and the Immigration Officers manning the Immigration counters at NAIA Terminals 1 and 2. They receive a list of passenger names from travel agencies and cascade said list to the administrators of Viber chat groups,” the charge sheet stated.
The Chinese suppliers allegedly received the regular pay-outs from travel agencies, usually wrapped like pastillas candies for distribution to intended recipients.
Based on the complaint, the accused collected P100,000 per passenger, for a total amount of P1.43 million.
The Ombudsman said the respondents violated Section 3 of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Senior immigration officers Grifton Medina, Edwin Ortañez and Glenn Comia were included in the charge sheet.
According to the prosecutors, Mariñas and his team controlled the incoming passengers and distributed commissions or payouts to the other participants in the scam.
Wu was accused of providing the list of Chinese passengers who would like to avail of the “VIP treatment” for a fee of P10,000 per passenger, and identified them as one of travel agency owners who paid money for seamless entry of Chinese individuals in the country.
“The above acts of accused public officials thus allowed entry of foreign passengers in the country without going through regular and stringent profiling or screening processes in violation of existing immigration rules and procedures, to the prejudice of the government and public interest, contrary to law,” the complaint stated.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the resolution of the separate administrative cases “is also forthcoming.
“It is the resolution of the administrative cases that will determine the disciplinary action that may be taken against the respondents therein,” Guevarra said in a text message to reporters.
Guevarra stressed that the DOJ conducted a parallel administrative investigation after a fact-finding inquiry by the BI.
However, Guevarra said “the list of respondents in the administrative complaint is not the same set of respondents in the criminal complaint, which was submitted by the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) to the OMB.”