IMMIGRATION Officer Allison Chiong, the whistleblower in the ‘pastillas’ scandal -- or the scheme of ensuring smooth entry into the country of Chinese workers of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) -- was provisionally admitted into the government’s witness protection program (WPP).
Justice Secretary Menardo granted the request of Senate President Tito Sotto and Sen. Risa Hontiveros to place Chiong under the WPP’s provisional coverage.
“Nasa WPP custody na yung whistleblower. We took him in upon the request of Sen. Hontiveros and the Senate President due to security concerns. He (Chiong) will be evaluated thoroughly by the WPP before he could be considered for full coverage,” Guevarra said in a message to justice reporters.
At the marathon Senate hearing on POGO operations, Chiong said that he had personally witnessed the scheme which started when there was a “dramatic increase” in Chinese entering the Philippines sometime around 2017.
“Immigration officers received, through a group chat in the Viber application, a list of names of Chinese nationals who were allowed entry into the Philippines without going through the usual immigration process,” said Chiong.
Chiong said that cooperating immigration officers in Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 would receive around P20,000 weekly, while those in Terminal 3 receive around P8,000 every week.
“These Chinese nationals were no longer required to undergo screening, they were simply let inside the Philippines without question or investigation,” Chiong said.
Asked how many BI officers were part of the scheme, Chiong said: “Mga 10% na lang hindi kasama sa modus.”
Earlier, Hontiveros disclosed during the resumption of the Senate investigation into crimes connected to POGOs that corrupt immigration officials have allegedly received an estimated total of P1 billion in “kickback” from Chinese visitors in exchange for a smooth entry into the country.
Guevarra said that Chinese visitors who illegally entered the country through the controversial “pastillas” scheme will be immediately deported to China.
“If the Chinese nationals named in the list turn out to be improperly documented, they will be deported immediately,” Guevarra said.
The Bureau of Immigration and the National Bureau of Investigation -- both attached agencies of the Department of Justice -- are now conducting formal investigations into the alleged modus which allows Chinese workers of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) to enter the country seamlessly after paying bribes.
Also, Guevarra said immigration officials and personnel involved in the infamous scheme will be investigated, and if evidence warrants, will be charged before regular courts or the Ombudsman.
“If they (Chinese nationals) are legitimate, but were merely extended ‘escort service’ by some BI personnel for a fee, then it’s the latter who will be dealt with accordingly,” Guevarra said.