Press Release
March 2, 2020


"Bistong-bisto na, pero deny pa!" This was the remark of Senator Risa Hontiveros as officials of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) linked to the 'pastillas' scam denied their involvement and knowledge.

Former BI Deputy Commissioner Marc Red Mariñas, whose name was mentioned by whistleblower Alex Chiong, denied he knew of the easy entry of Chinese nationals arriving in the country to work for Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators or POGO, in exchange for grease money.

"Tama na ang palusot niyo. Stop the excuses", Hontiveros said in exasperation during the hearing of the Senate Committee on Women and Children on Monday.


Hontiveros was also alarmed that Marc Red and his father, Maynardo Mariñas were appointed to key positions within the Bureau.

"Hindi ba nakakabahala na mag-ama ang nangangasiwa ng review, assessment and preparation ng VUA?" Hontiveros asked. Marc Red was appointed head of the Port Operations Division (POD) on July 2016 by then Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre.

His father, Maynard, was appointed as head of the Special Operations Communications Unit (SOCU).

The senator pointed out that easy entry of Chinese nationals were facilitated by the Department Circular 041 issued by the former Justice Secretary granting the POD and SOCU the power to review, assess and prepare orders on all requests for issuance of Visa Upon Arrival (VUA) in 2017. "Our border control was bought off by Chinese money, and no less than our government officials had a hand in them. Mga mag-ama, magkakaibigan, magkakatropa," Hontiveros further remarked.

"There was, from the outset, conflict of interest," the Senator said of the strategic appointment of the father-son duo.

Discrepancies in the SALN

Hontiveros was also skeptical about Marc Red's ability to finance a political campaign in 2018-19 when he ran as Mayor of Muntinlupa. "Salary grade 13 pero tumatakbong Mayor?," Hontiveros expressed in disbelief.

The Senator also took exception of the younger Mariñas' failure to file his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth [SALN] from 2014-16 and in 2018. "Twenty-four thousand pesos monthly ang sahod pero may mahigit limang milyong pisong net worth?" she also asked, referring to his 2017 SALN. On a similar note, Marc Red's assistant and security guard Fidel Mendoza registered a 7.8 million-peso net worth in his 2018 SALN, despite a salary of 11,000 pesos monthly (salary grade 5).

"Nawawalang SALN, mga net worth na hindi katumbas ng Salary Grade. Hindi na ito bago. Classic korap moves ito", Hontiveros said.

Threat to national security

Apart from bringing reforms to the BI, Hontiveros stood on her earlier call for a crackdown on all illegal POGO operations in the country. The Senator also said that an immediate suspension of all POGO operations must be done. "POGO is already a threat to our national security. It is a threat to our women. It is a threat to our children," Hontiveros remarked.

"Natatakot na ang mga kababayan natin kasi nakikita nila sa sa paligid na parang nasa peligro sila dahil dito sa POGO. Nararapat lang na i-suspend na ito kasi national security threat ito," she concluded.

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