Hontiveros reveals alleged bribery scheme to allow entry of Chinese workers in POGOs
Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday revealed an alleged bribery scheme involving immigration and local handlers to allow entry of Chinese workers in Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGOs).
In a Senate hearing, Hontiveros exposed alleged cash distribution called "pastillas" in the Bureau of Immigration.
She explained that the process got its name because in the past years, the bribery money from Chinese were placed in a paper and rolled similar to '' pastillas'', a popular Filipino delicacy.
"Now it's more professional. Yhey use a (brown) money envelope which makes it look like a legitimate salary. There is also a bonus for perfect attendance and free lunch from the Chinese," Hontiveros added, while citing a photo of the "pastillas" in the immigration bureau.
"This modus is getting stronger because there are thousands of POGO workers that are continuously arriving in the country everyday," she explained, citing an anonymous informant.
According to Hontiveros, each Chinese national pays an additional P10,000 to travel agencies in their country before flying to Philippines. The fee will then be transferred and distributed among immigration personnel in Manila, airport personnel, local tour operators and suspected "syndicates" who facilitates the process for POGO workers.
Hontiveros said out of the P10,000 fee, about P2,000 is split between the immigration supervisor, terminal heads, and the Travel Control and Enforcement Unit.
The remaining P8,000 is then divided among Chinese and partner local tour operators and "syndicates" who will be assigned in airports. They will transfer arriving POGO workers to POGO sites.
In a statement, the Bureau of Immigration said Commissioner Jaime Morente has ordered a full blown investigation to name personnel who are possibly part of the syndicate behind the scheme.
Immigration Spokesperson Dana Krizia Sandoval added that "both administrative and criminal cases" will be filed against erring immigration personnel
In a separate hearing, the Bureau of Immigration bared that 1.8 million Chinese nationals have entered the country in recent years.
Hontiveros said with the immigration's data, it is possible that a billion pesos have been disbursed as kickbacks to corrupt officials.
She alleged that there might be corrupt officials who are responsible for the scheme and has "sold (the) country's borders for Chinese money."
"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. They allow the entry of Chinese nationals in exchange of money, this effectively makes us borderless," she continued.
Hontiveros said further investigation will be conducted in relation to the "pastillas system" and the suspected corruption in the immigration. She also vowed to track down the main perpetrators behind the scheme.
"The operation inside the Bureau of Immigration will not be this systematic without a padrino. Illegal POGOs won't be this openly sameless if they don't have a protector who receives millions from them,"the Senator said.
"They said the POGO will bring investments. But instead of investments why does it look like an invasion?" Hontiveros asked. Cristina Eloisa Baclig/DMS