Duterte Sacks All Immigration Staff Involved in POGO Pastillas Bribery Scheme
President Rodrigo Duterte has fired all Bureau of Immigration employees involved in the alleged “pastillas” bribery scheme that allows Chinese workers in Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) to skip immigration lines with ease.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo announced the president’s decision earlier today, February 20, to the press.
The exact number of sacked officials is yet to be specified, as well as the names and positions of the involved persons. Panelo added that the president will be discussing the scheme and the BOI in his next Cabinet meeting.
What is the ‘pastillas’ scheme?
The “pastillas” scheme was revealed to the public during a Senate hearing investigating a bribery scheme that gives Chinese nationals VIP treatment at immigration in exchange for a P10,000 fee.
At Monday’s hearing by the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality, Senator Risa Hontiveros exposed a series of screenshots of a group chat by immigration officers where pictures, names, and flight details of VIP customers were shared as part of the “pastillas” scheme.
The scheme involves redirecting the Chinese national to a holding room instead of letting him go through the necessary immigration booths in Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Then, the national would give immigration officers the “fee” rolled inside a sheet of bond paper resembling the wrapper of pastillas.
At the follow-up hearing earlier today, immigration officer and whistleblower Allison Chong described the “pastillas” in the scheme as “Chinese money that is used to bribe immigration officers so that they can freely enter the country.”
“I feel na ang mga kasamahan kong immigration officers, they have been enslaved by this corrupt system,” shared Chong, who also revealed that only 10 percent of immigration officers are uninvolved. “Whether or not they were aware of it, biktima din sila. I want to free them that's why I'm making this sacrifice.”