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By Nancy Carvajal

Officials of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) earned as much as P15 billion since 2017 because of the scam that allowed Chinese nationals to stay in the Philippines without proper travel documents, Senator Risa Hontiveros said Tuesday (October 20).

At the continuation of the Senate hearing on the so called “pastillas” scam, Hontiveros said BI officials earned from bribes given to them by the Chinese nationals, who were believed to be workers of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs).

“Babasagin natin ang business model nila. Dito sa pastillas, ang estimate natin ay ang natabo nila P10 billion pesos. Tapos sa VUA (visa upon arrival), we have estimated P11 billion to P15 billion earnings,” she said.

From 2017, Hontiveros said some 4 million Chinese nationals have entered the country. The number, she noted, is more than the population of Quezon City, the biggest city in the country in terms of population and land area.

The senator said BI records showed that three million of the Chinese nationals who were non-VUA applicants were believed to have paid BI officials at least P10,000 to enter the country illegally.

Hontiveros tagged the father and son team of Maynardo and Marc Red Marinas as among the key personalities in the scam prior to their departure from BI in 2018.

The senator, meanwhile, lauded the National Bureau of Investigation for its exhaustive investigation on the illegal activities that led to the filing of cases against at least 20 former and current BI employees before the Office of the Ombudsman.

“Ako po ay nagpapasalamat sa NBI, particular ang Special Action Unit nito, dahil hindi rin nila ito tinatantanan. Ang sabi nga nila sa amin, pagkatapos ng pastillas sa arrivals, ang iimbestigahan nila na susunod ay ang departures o human trafficking na mukhang pare-pareho din ang sangkot, at ang Visa Upon Arrival,’’ Hontiveros said.

The NBI-Special Action Unit lead investigator Agent Joel Otic shared that the investigation on the human trafficking aspect is ongoing.

“The work is not done, the order by our superiors is to continue the investigation which includes human trafficking,” Otic said.

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