Sunday, August 01, 2021

Senator bares P40-B immigration kickbacks

SENATOR Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday, October 20, 2020, said masterminds of a notorious "business model" at the Bureau of Immigration (BI) have pocketed a total of P40 billion since 2017 from facilitating the arrivals of Chinese nationals through the so-called visa upon arrival (VUA) and the "pastillas scam" (non-VUA transactions).

"Sa 'pastillas' scam, ang estimate natin ay natabo ng mga mastermind na nito ay P30 billion, that's based on the arrival data of Chinese nationals na non-VUA. Sa VUA naman, another revenue stream, the kickbacks go straight into the pockets of some officials," Hontiveros said.

Based on BI figures, there have been about four million Chinese nationals who have entered the country since 2017.

"The numbers are staggering. For the sake of comparison, four million Chinese nationals arriving here since 2017 is comparable to more than the entire population of Quezon City. Kumbaga, bakit mas marami pa sa mga residente ng QC ang bilang ng Chinese na pinapapasok sa bansa?" Hontiveros said.

Of these four million Chinese nationals, around 3.8 million were non-VUA applicants while around 150,000 were VUA applicants.

Around three million of these non-VUA applicants are believed to have paid the extra P10,000 service fee in the 'pastillas' scam.

According to whistleblowers Alex Chiong and Dale Ignacio, masterminds of the scam take part of the bribe money.

"Sa Pastillas, ang pera pumapasok sa airport, tapos sa mga IO (Immigration Officer) pinapamigay. Bago siya mag resign, si Red Mariñas ang in charge bilang chief ng Ports Operations Division (POD)," Hontiveros said.

Meanwhile, when it comes to the questionable VUA transactions, the bribe allegedly goes straight to the main office, where the visas are approved.

"Sa VUA, diretso sa main office. Bago siya mag retire, si Maynardo Mariñas, ang ama ni Red, ang in charge dito bilang head ng Special Operations Communications Unit (SOCU), which checks and audits the VUAs. Tiba-tiba ang pamilyang Mariñas, pero nanatili pa din na tanong ay: sino ang protector nila?" the senator said.

After being cited in contempt in the previous (October 6) hearing, both Red and Maynardo were in attendance and given a chance to clarify their roles in the BI during the hearing Tuesday by the Senate committee on women, children, family, relations and gender equality.

The committee initially sought to look into prostitution and slave-like conditions related to the rise of Philippine offshore gaming operators (Pogo). (PR)


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