Feb 23, 2021 @ 11:24

NBI to probe involvement of travel agencies in ‘Pastillas Scheme’

The National Bureau of Investigation has been directed to expand its investigation into the so-called ‘Pastillas Scheme’ to include travel agencies and their cohorts in the Bureau of Immigration.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Monday made the statement amid opposition Sen. Rissa Hontiveros’ disclosure that travel agencies are facilitating seemless entry of Chinese visitors into the country in exchange for fat fees.

“The Cabinet meeting is still going on. I have directed the NBI to expand its investigation of ‘fixers’ activities at the BI and find out who their cohorts are among the BI personnel, so that appropriate administrative and criminal charges may be filed against them, ” Guevarra said. The BI is an attached agency of the Department of Justice.

Recently, Hontiveros called on the NBI to unmask the travel agencies involved in Pasillas Scheme, in which Chinese nationals allegedly paid P550,000 each for a seamless entry into the country.

“Chinese nationals with criminal records are able to enter the country because of the collusion between this travel agency and corrupt personnel of the BI. I’ve called for a BI overhaul before and this needs to happen now as it seems the new scam features the same cast of characters,” the senator said.

Last year, the scheme hogged the headlines as it dragged names of ranking government officials. Under the “Pastillas” scheme, a Chinese visitor can seemlessly enter the country for paying bribes to Immigration officials and personnel

A Chinese citizen pays a P10,000 “service fee” – P2,000 of which will allegedly be shared among officials of the BI’s Travel Control and Enforcement Unit (TCEU), duty Immigration supervisor, and terminal heads.

The remaining P8,000 will then be given to tour operators and syndicates who will transport the Chinese from the airport to Pogo facilities.

It was also earlier disclosed during past congressional hearings hearing that blacklisted Chinese fugitives would pay as much as P200,000 to “freely” enter the country.

The NBI has filed a complaint against BI personnel in connection with the “pastillas” scam before the Office of the Ombudsman.

They were charged with violations under Sections 3(a) and 3(j) of RA 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

These Immigration officials and personnel have already been relieved from their posts. #

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