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.