Bureau of Immigration (BI) officials made money even from Chinese tourists who failed to bribe them for traveling to the country without proper documents, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has found.

2-way windfall: BI detains Chinese who don’t pay bribes, then frees them for a fee

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By Nancy Carvajal

Bureau of Immigration (BI) officials made money even from Chinese tourists who failed to bribe them for traveling to the country without proper documents, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has found.

According to a complaint filed by the NBI with the Office of the Ombudsman this week, BI officials detained Chinese nationals who did not avail themselves of the “pastillas” scheme, where cash rolled up like sweets were given to immigration officers upon arrival at the airport.

NBI’s investigation showed the Chinese nationals who went through the regular immigration procedures without bribing BI officials were taken into custody at the Travel Control and Enforcement Unit (TCEU). They called the scheme the “Code-R” or “Tubos System.”

“If the incoming Chinese passenger is not on the “list’’, he/she will be referred to the (TCEU ) which will, in turn wait until somebody shows up on behalf of the foreign passenger and pay for his entry,’’ the NBI’s complaint read.

“If no one shows up and pay on behalf of the Chinese passenger is denied visa upon arrival rule and denied entry to the country,” it added.

The NBI –Special Action Unit filed on Thursday its second wave of criminal charges against 86 former and current officials of the Bureau of Immigration, including those alleged masterminds.

The first criminal case filed by NBI in September was against 19 Immigration officers accused to be involved in the multi- billion Pastillas money-making scheme in the three airports of the country.

The Office of the Ombudsman had already suspended 44 immigration officials linked to the Pastillas group, but according to the two whistleblowers, membership of the syndicate at the premier airports was widespread.

Senator Risa Hontiveros estimated the earnings of the Pastillas syndicate at around P40 billion since 2017. Chinese arrivals in the country have spiked since then.

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Wow mali! Robredo LOLs over erroneous tag as doctor vaccinated vs COVID-19

Vice President Leni Robredo used the facepalm emoji in a social media post to express her exasperation after being mistakenly tagged as a doctor who received Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine.

In a March 2 Facebook post, Robredo denied she’s the doctor in photos making the rounds online. The pictures showed a woman wearing a face mask getting the Sinovac jab.

Critics have ridiculed the pictures since the woman was wearing a long sleeved blouse, implying she couldn’t have received the vaccine because her arm wasn’t exposed.

“This is ridiculously funny [woozy face emoji]. Hindi po ako yan [woman facepalming emoji],” Robredo said.

“Ayoko na sanang patulan pero ang daming nagpapadala ng mga screenshots. Kung hindi kayo busy, pa report nalang please [smiling face with sunglasses emoji],” she added.

As a postscript, Robredo apologized to the woman in the photo, whom she found out was Dr. Flordeliza Grana, a pediatric surgeon at the Amang Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center (ARMMC).

Witnesses to the vaccination have posted photos of Grana showing her blouse had slits, which made the vaccination possible.

“Sorry, Dra. Nadamay ka pa tuloy,” the Vice President said.

Twitter to boot users who persist with Covid-19 lies

Twitter said Monday it will start labeling misleading tweets about Covid-19 vaccines and boot users who persist in spreading such misinformation.

The one-to-many messaging service introduced a “strike system” that will gradually escalate to a permanent ban after the fifth offending tweet.

“We believe the strike system will help to educate the public on our policies and further reduce the spread of potentially harmful and misleading information on Twitter,” the San Francisco-based company said in a blog post.

“Particularly for repeated moderate and high-severity violations of our rules.”

Twitter users will be notified when a tweet is labeled as misleading or needs to be removed for breaking the platform’s rules, earning a strike, according to the company.

The second and third strikes will each result in the violating account being blocked for 12 hours.

With a fourth violation, an account will be sidelined for seven days. A fifth strike will get accounts permanently suspended, Twitter said.

Twitter late last year began calling on users to remove dangerously misleading Covid-19 claims, including suggestions that vaccines are used to harm or control people.

The service also targeted baseless claims about adverse effects of vaccines or questioning the reality of the pandemic.

Since then, Twitter has removed more than 8,400 tweets and notified some 11.5 million accounts worldwide about violations of its Covid-19 information rules.

The strike system is similar to what Twitter applies to election-related misinformation, which led to former US president Donald Trump being permanently banned for repeated violations, including language that the platform said could incite violence and questioning the integrity of the voting process.

Covid-19 vaccination campaigns are taking place in many countries in an effort to keep people healthy and return to pre-pandemic lifestyles.

YouTube and Facebook are among the online platforms that have taken steps to fight the spread of lies about the pandemic and vaccines.

gc/to

© Agence France-Presse

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Tokyo asks China to end Covid-19 anal swabs for Japanese

Japan has asked China to avoid using anal swabs to test its citizens for coronavirus, saying the method prompted complaints of “psychological distress”.

Tokyo’s intervention comes after reports that US diplomatic personnel in China had complained of being subjected to the intrusive tests — a claim Beijing denied.

China, which has largely brought the virus under control domestically, said last month that anal swabs can be more effective than normal throat and nose tests as the virus can linger longer in the digestive system.

But Japanese government spokesman Katsunobu Kato said late Monday that Tokyo had made a formal request through its embassy in Beijing that people arriving from the country be exempted.

“Our embassy requested Japanese citizens be excluded from anal PCR tests, as some Japanese expatriates… expressed the opinion that the tests produce significant psychological distress,” Kato said.

“At this point we have not received a response that they change this… We will continue pressing the issue,” he added, noting that there was no information that any other country was using the method.

Asked about the complaint, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Beijing’s testing methods were “science-based” and “in accordance with the changes in the epidemic situation as well as relevant laws and regulations”.

Last month, US media said State Department personnel in China had complained about the method, but Beijing rebuffed the reports, saying it had “never requested US diplomatic personnel in China to undergo anal swabs”.

Officials in China have used anal swabs to test people it considers at high-risk of contracting Covid-19, including residents of neighbourhoods with confirmed cases as well as some international travellers.

But they have acknowledged it would be hard to use anal swabs as widely as the other methods, which have been used to test millions in mass campaigns, as the technique was “not convenient”. Agence France-Presse

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