MANILA - Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Tuesday urged a Senate panel to recommend a "reorganization" of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) after an investigator tasked to look into a bribery scheme in the agency was arrested for allegedly conniving with officials tagged in the case.
NBI Legal Assistance Section Chief Joshua Capiral and his brother BI officer Christopher Capiral were earlier arrested after allegedly asking for P100,000 from each immigration personnel implicated in the scam to have their names excluded from the charge list.
"There is clear suppression of evidence," Drilon said during the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality hearing.
"This gives credence to us to clean up the Bureau of Immigration. We should immediately recommend the reorganization of the Bureau of Immigration," he said.
The Committee was responsible for unearthing the "pastillas" scheme, where bribe money for the entry of illegal Chinese workers is rolled in paper— similar to how a Filipino candy is packed— and allegedly given to immigration officers.
"Ang kakapal po ng mga mukha ng mga nasa Bureau of Immigration. Nagiimbestiga na nga, naglalagay pa para hindi masama sa kaso," the Senate Minority Leader said.
(Officials in the Bureau of Immigration are thick-skinned. They are being investigated but they still resort to bribery.)
"He is the one given the task of investigating the 'pastillas' scam.. It only gives credence to the allegation... that the BI personnel who were not charged could in fact be guilty," Drilon said.
According to whistleblower Allison Chiong, among the Immigration personnel who were tagged in the corruption scheme but were not included in the 19 officers charged with cases are:
- NAIA Terminal 1 head Jonathan Orozco
- NAIA Terminal 2 head Dennis Robles
- NAIA Terminal 3 head Bradford Allen So
"Ang nangyari po kasi sa BI naging parang palengke. Open market na siya [for illegal foreign entries]," Chiong told senators.
(BI became a markerplace. It is a marketplace for illegal foreign entries.)
"'Yung mga head at sino pinakamalaking kinikita, kaniya-kaniya na 'yan. Paramihan na 'yan [ng kikitain]," he said.
(The heads, those who earn the most, they have their own styles. They're in a race over who can get the most earnings.)
Officials who were implicated in the "pastillas" scheme should be "suspended," Drilon said.
Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality chair Risa Hontiveros said she would take Drilon's suggestions into consideration when crafting the panel's report that would be tackled in plenary.
Hontiveros warned corrupt immigration personnel that the "walls are closing in" on them.
"Akala ninyo ang kapangyarihan at pera ay permanente at habang buhay kayong nasa puwesto... The arch of the universe is long but in the end it bends towards justice," she said.
(You think power and money is permanent and you are in power forever.)
"Tayong lahat ay Pilipino. It is our obligation to protect our borders, to protect our women and children. Unahin naman po natin ang Pilipinas," she said.
(We are all Filipinos... let us put the Philippines first.)