Illegal Chinese visitors who benefited from ‘pastillas’ scheme to be deported – DOJ

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 21) — Chinese nationals who illegally entered the Philippines with the help of the so-called "pastillas" bribery scheme will be sent back to China immediately, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said on Friday.

The Bureau of Immigration and the National Bureau of Investigation are conducting investigations into the alleged modus of several immigration officers to give VIP treatment to Chinese visitors — and even fugitives — for a fee.

"If the Chinese nationals named in the list turn out to be improperly documented, they will be deported immediately," he sent in a text message.

Over 2,000 Chinese nationals enter the Ninoy Aquino International Airport daily, but the number of visitors who have availed of the illegal bribery scheme remains unknown.

Immigration Officer Allison Chiong appeared before the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality on Thursday to attest that Chinese nationals pay ₱10,000 as a “service fee” or grease money for a special entry treatment from the BI.

The grease money goes up to P50,000 to even millions of pesos for blacklisted Chinese fugitives or "VVIP" who want to get in and out of the Philippines, the whistleblower revealed.

Immigration data shows that 324 Chinese nationals were apprehended in local ports in 2019.

Guevarra said corrupt immigration officials will also be dealt with by the DOJ.

“If they (Chinese nationals) are legitimate, but were merely extended 'escort service' by some BI personnel for a fee, then it's the latter who will be dealt with accordingly,” the Justice Chief said.

Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that Immigration chief Jaime Morente will still be investigated despite President Rodrigo Duterte's expression of support for him yesterday.

"Everyone is not off the hook. The confidence is there until contrary statement is made by the President," said Panelo.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday relieved 19 immigration officials and personnel while the investigation is ongoing to find out their involvement in the illegal scheme.

Immigration spokesperson Dana Sandoval said the list includes the names Chiong revealed to be the leaders of syndicates within the bureau who are conniving with foreign travel groups for a percentage of the fee. Chiong mentioned several names involved in the scheme, such as former port operations divisions chief Red Mariñas.

Sandoval said the list of relieved officers may expand as the bureau once the results of its own probe is ready.