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NBI zeroes in on leaders of ’pastillas’ gang

The National Bureau of Investigation plans to pin down the leaders of the "pastillas scheme" in the next batch of complaints it intends to file before the Office of the Ombudsman, an NBI official said on Thursday.

NBI Special Action Unit chief Emeterio Dongallo Jr. said investigators may be able to have evidence and file charges against the "bosses" of the alleged bribery scheme that allowed Chinese nationals to enter the country without going through the proper immigration process following the testimony of a second whistleblower.

The NBI initially filed criminal complaints against 19 immigration personnel after one officer, Allison Chiong, revealed the details of the scheme, but Dongallo said Chiong's information only went as far as the "foot soldiers."

One of the people tagged in the first batch of complaints, immigration officer Jeffrey Dale Ignacio, recently identified one of the "ringleaders" of the pastillas scheme, Marc Red Mariñas, the former port operations chief of the Bureau of Immigration, and other airport officials.

Mariñas and the other alleged pastillas gang leaders, however, denied having knowledge of the scheme.

"Noong dumating naman po itong si Dale Ignacio, 'yung pangalawa nating whistleblower... nabuo na po natin 'yung picture," Dongallo said.

"Halos na-corroborate niya po 'yung statement ni Allison Chiong at mukha pong maaabot natin 'yung mga tinaguriang mga bosses sa pagkakataong ito," he added.

The NBI previously said there will be a second batch of complaints.

Dongallo said investigators are also conducting a lifestyle check on the officials allegedly involved in the pastillas scheme. He said the officials' statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth will form part of the evidence they will consider.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, who leads a Senate investigation on alleged corrupt practices at the BI, alleged earlier this week that those behind the visa upon arrival (VUA) system and the pastillas scheme earned about P40 billion.

Hontiveros claimed that the grease money from the scheme, estimated at around P30 billion, entered through the airports and trickled down to immigration officers.

The alleged kickbacks from the VUA system, on the other hand, went straight to some immigration officials, the senator said. She said an estimated 150,000 Chinese nationals entered the Philippines using such visas.

The BI suspended the issuance of visas upon arrival to Chinese nationals in January over COVID-19 fears.

Topics: National Bureau of Investigation , Office of the Ombudsman , pastillas scheme , Emeterio Dongallo Jr , COVID-1 , Risa Hontiveros
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