Martires doubts ‘pastillas’ scheme masterminds having contact inside anti-graft office

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 23) - Ombudsman Samuel Martires questioned the allegation of a whistleblower that the masterminds behind the “pastillas” scheme have a contact inside his office.

Immigration officer Jeffrey Dale Ignacio, a self-confessed member of the “pastillas” group, recently tagged former Ports Operation Division chief Marc Red Mariñas as the “ring leader” of the scheme. He added that the latter revealed that they had a contact within the Office of the Ombudsman.

Martires said that Ignacio’s statements are doubtful, especially that the anti-graft office had tightened its security since it reopened last May.

“Talagang nakakaduda yung sinabi ni Ignacio. Ibig sabihin yung nakakaalam sa sitwasyon ng [Office of the] Ombudsman ngayon na wala kaming pinapapasok, will not believe Ignacio,” said Martires in an interview with CNN Philippines.

[Translation: What Ignacio said was really doubtful. It only means that those who are familiar with the current situation inside Office of the Ombudsman, that we are not allowing outsiders to enter, will not believe Ignacio.]

He added that Ignacio should at least give authorities a lead or identity of the alleged contact of the masterminds. Martires said that his claim is unfair because it casts doubt on every employee of the agency.

“Ang problema lang para kang naga-ano ng wala kang lead, kung sino ba (The problem is you are doing something without any lead on whoever that person is). Everyone will become a suspect. Even the ombudsman will become a suspect kung ganyan na walang pangalan (Even the ombudsman will become a suspect if there is no identity given),” he said.

Martires said that Ignacio could be making these allegations in hope of getting an immunity.

“Alam mo, hindi ka pwedeng hindi magsuspetsa ng ganun e (You cannot just simply suspect like that). Kasi (Because) what is the best way out now for a person who is involved in a syndicate, in a crime? To pretend that you are a whistleblower, that's the best way out,” he said. “Ang mahirap, masyado nating inaabuso yung use ng word na whistleblower (What is difficult now, we are abusing the word whistleblower).”

The anti-graft is already investigating the claim of Ignacio and also cooperating with the National Bureau of Investigation. Martires said that the bureau has requested for a copy of the visitor’s log book in the office.

However, Martires said that they would trust the investigation at the Senate led by Senator Risa Hontiveros.

“We are relying more now on the investigation of Senator [Risa] Hontiveros. Kasi baka dun sa Senado mapiga nila ng husto si Ignacio o si Mariñas. Para alam namin kung sino yun,” he said.

[Translation: We are relying more on the investigation of Senator Risa Hontiveros. Because they might get something out of Ignacio or Mariñas. So we can also know who is that contact.]

Hontiveros recently said that up to ₱40 billion in bribes may have been sourced from the “pastillas” scheme and the “visa-upon-arrival" system.

CNN Philippines' correspondent AC Nicholls and multi-platform news writer Vince Ferreras contributed to this report