Press Release
September 2, 2020

Hontiveros welcomes filing of criminal raps vs BI personnel tagged in 'pastillas scam'

Senator Risa Hontiveros today welcomed the filing of criminal charges against 19 personnel of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) allegedly linked to the so-called 'pastillas scam,' hailing it as a "major step forward in protecting the country's borders and the welfare of Filipinos, especially women and children."

"The filing of cases against these BI personnel is a welcome development in our efforts to remove the network of corruption which enabled the illegal entry of countless Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) workers from China, along with the various crimes associated with them. We commend the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) for taking decisive action against those who have betrayed the country and contributed to the victimization of many Filipino women and children," she said.

Last February, Hontiveros, as chair of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality, spearheaded hearings which exposed the pastillas scam, a massive illegal operation in which immigration officials offered Chinese nationals - many of whom are POGO workers -'seam-less' entry into the Philippines for a fee.

The committee led by Hontiveros revealed to the public digital chat logs, undercover videos and a testimony by BI whistleblower Allison Chiong, which detailed how immigration officers escorted and provided "red-carpet services" for Chinese workers as they illegally entered the country.

Hontiveros said that the rampant illegal and undocumented entry of Chinese nationals may be linked to the wave of criminal activities involving POGO employees, which includes human trafficking, prostitution, kidnapping and labor law violations. "Sa pagaaral ng aming komite, may mga prostitution ring para sa mga POGO workers na bumibiktima sa mga babaeng Pilipina, na minsan ay menor de edad pa. Mga kababayan natin ang nagdurusa dahil sa kasakiman ng ilang opisyal," she said.

The senator said she is hopeful that the NBI's investigation of the corruption in BI will lead to the filing of cases against more BI employees as well as other private individuals like travel agency operators who are also involved in the pastillas scam.

"In our committee hearings, the evidence presented pointed to how systemic and far-reaching the 'pastillas scheme' was. There were people in the higher levels of the BI who were supposedly on the take and benefiting from this illegal enterprise. Kung gusto natin matigil ang paglabag sa ating batas at ang pagabuso sa ating kababaihan at kabataan, kailangan natin mahanap at makasuhan ang bawat padrino at backer na nakikinabang sa kalokohang ito," she concluded.

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