MANILA — Bureau of Immigration (BI) Commissioner Jaime Morente on Saturday blasted officials and other personnel of his agency accused of facilitating the "pastillas" scheme, where illegal Chinese workers allegedly enter the Philippines by paying grease money.
"As the Commissioner, I am very disappointed with the unauthorized activities of some personnel who continue to commit irregularities despite our determined efforts to get rid of the culture of corruption in the Bureau since 2016," Morente said in a statement.
The "pastillas" scheme was revealed in a Senate inquiry earlier this week by opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who said Chinese nationals who enter the Philippines as tourists and later work for Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) hubs pay immigration personnel and Chinese and Filipino travel agencies P10,000 in grease money rolled in bond paper.
Among those allegedly able to enter the country through payoffs were Chinese nationals already in the immigration blacklist.
Morente ordered the creation of a fact-finding committee to look into the scheme. It was given 15 days to investigate and submit a report.
President Rodrigo Duterte has already sacked all BI employees allegedly involved in the bribery scheme, but spared Morente because he "loves" him and considers him "mabait" (kind).
Personnel tagged in the "pastillas" modus have all been placed "in the administrative holding office" as the investigation continues, according the the commissioner.
"I am certain that after this exposé, the intense public scrutiny and accompanying trial by publicity that the Bureau has been subjected to will only ensure that we come out stronger as we weather yet another storm," Morente said.
After the scheme was uncovered, Morente said additional measures have been put in place to deter other illegal activities within the bureau.
"As added measures to deter and expose any more illegal activities, we have included new protocols in the conduct of secondary inspections in open areas to improve transparency and installation of additional CCTV cameras in all areas of the primary inspectors."
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has said that a "syndicate" within the Immigration bureau might be "a bit difficult to break" due to its suspected ties with groups in China.