Various hotels like Midas and Okada in Pasay City have been used as prostitution dens catering to Chinese nationals, most of whom work in Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators who have paid an estimated P10 billion in bribes to immigration officials.
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In a Senate hearing into prostitution rings and trafficking, the chief of the National Bureau of Investigation Anti-Organized and Transnational Crime Division, Joel Tovera, said they have monitored prostitution in these hotels in Pasay City and other KTVs in Metro Manila.
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Tovera also told the Senate committee on women, children, family relations and gender equality chaired by Senator Risa Hontiveros there was a hotel in Makati where the whole floor was used for prostitution.
He also said two floors in a condo-type building in Las Piñas were used for illicit activities and said the Red Planet hotel in Makati was also a venue for prostitution.
These hotels, however, have denied they are used for prostitution and have been “uncooperative,” Tovera said.
Officials and representatives of business establishments summoned by the committee to the hearing all denied knowing about prostitution in their buildings.
Tovera said he has submitted to the committee a list of establishments that serve as prostitution havens servicing mostly Chinese nationals.
In the same hearing, Hontiveros grilled immigration officials on the so-called pastillas, which they all referred to as “something sweet.”
They denied knowing about pastillas—in which corrupt airport employees and officials receive kickbacks to facilitate the entry of Chinese nationals, who pay a “service fee” of P10,000.
But Immigration Deputy Commissioner J. Tobias Javier and Port Operations Division head Grifton Medina said this was the first time they had heard of the practice.
Medina acknowledged, however, that some airport officials have already been reassigned as part of measures to combat corruption.
Javier said personnel changes have been made at the airport and noted that visa upon arrival documents are not processed at the airports.
A video of a corrupt airport employee at work showed that POGO workers got special treatment.
Immigration officials were also in a “welcome committee” and acted as escorts of the Chinese nationals.
Screenshots of a Viber group, presumably set up by immigration officers, showed a guest list of Chinese nationals entering the country, sometimes with their flight details and photos.
Another screen grab showed the cash contributions or payola called as “pastillas.”
Hontiveros said that for for every P10,000 paid by a Chinese POGO worker, P2,000 went to the airport immigration officers.
The rest, she said, went to the Chinese tour operator, the contracting local tour operator, and a syndicate that operated at the airport.
Based on their estimates, Hontiveros said of the 1.8 million Chinese who enter the country, a million opted for the “pastillas” scheme.
“The lion’s share goes to the bosses,” Hontiveros told BI officials during the hearing. “Somebody rigged the system, centralized the operations, and made this into a billion-peso enterprise.”
The senator vowed to press her investigation into the corrupt system within the BI and propose policy changes to address the corruption.
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