Immigration submits report on own ‘pastillas’ fact-finding probe, lifestyle checks

( – October 22, 2020 – 11:12am

MANILA, Philippines — A Bureau of Immigration fact-finding committee has checked the wealth declaration documents of employees accused of involvement in the “pastillas” scheme against their lifestyles to see if they may be living beyond their means.

Although not damning on their own, lavish lifestyles beyond what a government worker earns can indicate possible graft and corruption. The bureau has submitted its report on the lifestyle checks to the Department of Justice, where it is an attached agency.

“Following the investigation on the alleged pastillas scheme, the [Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth] of those involved were checked, and data from it were included in the results of the investigation of the fact-finding committee by the BI, submitted to the DOJ,” BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval said.

Probe parallel to NBI investigation

Sandoval explained that this is a separate check that the bureau from the probe the National Bureau of Investigation is conducting, which also involves lifestyle checks among BI officials and personnel.

“As a matter of procedure, we include it as part of investigations conducted by our fact-finding committee,” she added.

BI Deputy Commissioner Toby Javier in a Senate hearing on Tuesday said it recommended to the DOJ filing administrative complaints against BI officials allegedly involved in the money-making racket for conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service and for grave misconduct.

In a separate interview with DZBB on Thursday morning, NBI Special Action Unit chief Emeterui Dongallo Jr. confirmed that they are conducting an initial check of employees assets and basic salaries of those accused of involvement in the “pastillas” racket, where Chinese nationals allegedly pay a fee for their hassle-free entry into the country.

“In our meeting with our personnel (conducting the probe), we found something surprising: That [BI personnel] declared high assets and net worth in their submitted SALNs,” he said in Filipino.

In an exclusive ABS-CBN report on Wednesday night, Dongallo said that an official with a monthly salary of P32,000 declared a net worth of P27.9 million while a security guard paid P14,000 monthly has a net worth of more than P10 million.

Dongallo explained that they are reviewing basic salary of employees and comparing it to their position in the government and if they have declared businesses as other source of income.

He added that they are considering other evidence in their investigation .

Bosses in ‘pastillas’ scheme may be included in next batch of complaints

Dongallo also said following the testimony of Immigration Officer Jeffrey Dale Ignacio, the second whistleblower of the case, they are close to getting the entire picture of the “pastillas” scheme.

“It looks like we can reach those deemed bosses in this time,” he said.

The NBI early in September filed graft raps against 19 BI officials before the Office of the Ombudsman. The highest official sued was then-Ports Operations Division chief Grifton Medina, who was since reassigned as BI’s chief of personnel section.

Ignacio, in his testimony before the Senate, accused former POD chief Marc Red Mariñas of being the “ringleader” of the bribery scheme, an allegation that the former BI official denied.

Dongallo said they are working to include those deemed as “big fish” in the second batch of complaints that they will file. — Kristine Joy Patag

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