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Ex-DOJ chief tagged in 'pastillas'

Resigned Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre III was the “protector” of the bribe-taking “pastillas” scheme at the Bureau of Immigration, the country’s special envoy to China Ramon Tulfo told the Senate Monday.

READ: BI reshuffles 800 officers at NAIA

Ex-DOJ chief tagged in 'pastillas'
CURIOUSER AND CURIOUSER. Former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II (right) has been tagged as a protector of the so-called “pastillas” bribery scheme that allows the unimpeded entry of Chinese tourists into the country, a Senate inquiry revealed Monday. Columnist and special envoy to China Mon Tulfo (left) said information provided by immigration whistleblower Allison Chiong revealed that a cut of the “pastillas” bribes was delivered via helicopter to Aguirre in Mulanay, Quezon. Lino Santos
Appearing for the first time before a Senate hearing on anomalies surrounding Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs), Tulfo linked Aguirre to the scheme by which illegal Chinese workers and fugitives were allowed entry into the country by paying bribes to Bureau of Immigration officers.

“He is the protector of the syndicate based on what [whistleblower] Mr. [Allison] Chiong reported to me,” Tulfo told the Senate hearing chaired by Senator Risa Hontiveros.

READ: Immigration man tags 5 in ’pastillas’

Hontiveros said Aguirre would be invited to the next hearing.

“His name was mentioned in the hearing… of all things, [as the] protector of this syndicate in the BI that violated the rights of women and children,” Hontiveros said in an interview after the hearing.

She added that he would be invited “as a matter of basic fairness so he can explain his side on this serious allegation.”

In a statement, Aguirre accused Tulfo of lying.

“The charges of Ramon Tulfo are absolute lies and a complete fabrication... I was told that he was the only one saying that in the Senate. That even his so-called whistleblower did not say what he was accusing me of. I filed numerous libel and cyber libel cases against Tulfo because of this same defamatory accusations, and all these complaints filed almost two years ago are now pending before the RTCs of Manila,” Aguirre said.

The BI is under the Department of Justice.

Meanwhile, immigration officials linked to the pastillas scheme denied the accusations hurled against them by Chiong.

Former Immigration Ports Operation Division (POD) chief Marc Red Mariñas denied that he is the leader of the pastillas scheme.

He said a video of an immigration official helping a Chinese national shown during a Senate hearing was “normal procedure” and said there was nothing wrong with it.

“An ordinary, innocent standard procedure in the course of primary inspection of arriving passengers was twisted to suit his intention of passing it to the committee as evidence of corruption,” he said of Chiong.

But newly designated POD chief Grifton Medina contradicted Marinas, saying that front liners are not allowed to use cell phones.

He emphasized there were something wrong in the procedure since they initiated several reforms when he assumed his post. He said the NBI also conducted a probe into the alleged corruption in the bureau.

Mariñas denied he knew of the easy entry of Chinese nationals arriving in the country to work for POGO in exchange for grease money.

Irked by the denials, Hontiveros said she would recommend a lifestyle check on those being tagged in the pastillas syndicate.

During the hearing, it was learned that Mariñas received P24,000 monthly before resigning from the BI but failed to file his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth for 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018.

Hontiveros also discovered that the net worth of former Immigration security guard Fidel Mendoza was P7.8 million. He was a former assistant of Mariñas.

It was also revealed in the hearing that when Mariñas was POD head, his father, Maynardo Marinas was head of the Special Operations Communication Unit. His father was appointed by Aguirre.

“Was it not alamring that a father and son were in charge of the review, assessment and preparation ng VUA?” Hontiveros said, referring to the issuance of visas upon arrival for Chinese nationals.

“Our border control was bought off by Chinese money, and [by] no less than our government officials…,” she said.

Hontiveros was also skeptical about Mariñas’s ability to finance a political campaign in 2018-19 when he ran for mayor of Muntinlupa.

“You received P24,000 monthly but you had a net worth of more than P5 million?” she asked the former BI official.

The Palace, meanwhile, said the recent killing of a Chinese online gaming worker by two suspected members of China’s People’s Liberation Army was a cause of concern for government.

“Anything that goes against the interest of the country is a cause of concern by this government and for that matter any government,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.

This came after the Thursday robbery-shooting incident in Makati City which led to the death of a Chinese man named Yin Jian Tao, which Senator Richard Gordon said might be linked to China’s intelligence gathering in the country.

Asked if the government will impose stricter measures on Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators activities in the country following the incident, Panelo said: “That goes without saying because as the President says, any violation of any immigration law or any law of this country will not be countenanced.”

Police investigators said suspects Yang Chao Wen and Liang Yuan Wu had arranged the meeting with the victim to exchange Yin’s more than P300,000 for Yang’s yuan.

Yin was shot dead in the VIP room of Jiang Nan Hot Pot restaurant in Barangay Bel-Air.

Two IDs found on the crime scene were said to belong to Liu Sheng Zhen of the PLA, whom the two suspects claimed was their co-worker at an online gaming company, while the third suspect was able to escape after the killing.

READ: After ’pastillas,’ Morente probed

READ: Abused POGO worker says PH government exec behind crimes

READ: Immigration vows purge of crooks

Topics: Vitaliano Aguirre III , Bureau of Immigration , Ramon Tulfo , Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators , Allison Chiong
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