MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan has acquitted four workers of a Cebu town of graft…
‘Pastillas’ defendants charged with graft are facing administrative charges.
MANILA – Employees of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) who were involved in the so-called “pastillas” fraud would still face administrative charges separate from the Office of the Ombudsman’s lawsuits.
The bail amount for each of the 43 BI officers and staff members was recommended to be PHP90,000 each.
After it was discovered that they colluded to receive bribe money from Chinese nationals who entered the country without going through regular and thorough profiling or screening, the Ombudsman charged them with violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Pastillas candies, a milk-based soft delicacy, were used to wrap the money.
A travel agency and other Chinese nationals in the country are said to have referred the visitors.
Following the BI’s fact-finding probe, DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the government initiated a parallel administrative investigation.
On Tuesday, Guevarra sent a text message to reporters, saying, “The resolution of the separate administrative case is also forthcoming.”
According to him, the respondents in the administrative complaint are not the same as those in the criminal complaint filed with the Ombudsman by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
“The disciplinary action that may be taken against the respondents in the administrative case will be determined by the conclusion of the administrative case,” Guevarra added.
Former Deputy Commissioner Marc Red Marias, as well as senior immigration officers Grifton Medina, Erwin Ortaez, and Glenn Ford Comia, were all charged with graft.
The Senate investigated the scheme in February 2020, and BI Commissioner Jaime Morente appointed a fact-finding investigative committee (FFIC) to investigate the suspected wrongdoing.
The FFIC produced a report later that found prima facie evidence of gross misconduct and actions harmful to the service’s best interests against BI personnel.
A formal administrative investigation should be performed without prejudice to the launching of independent criminal action, according to the FFIC.
Guevarra filed a formal charge against the BI authorities and employees on Oct. 23, 2020, alleging significant misconduct, egregious neglect of duty, and conduct harmful to the service’s best interests.
Senator Risa Hontiveros applauds the Ombudsman’s action.
“Tagumpay ito ng mga kababaihan at kabataang biktima ng human trafficking, lalo na ang mga naglakas loob magsalita tulad nina Carina at Ivy (This is a success for the women and youth who were victims of human trafficking, especially the ones who were brave enough to speak like Carina and Ivy),” she said in a statement
Hontiveros, the chair of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality, which helped expose the “pastillas” scam, said the filing of complaints demonstrated that Senate hearings are beneficial to the country.
“Pwede maging katuwang ng estado at (We can work with the state and) law enforcement agencies to keep the katiwalian under control” (the committee to fight irregularities). “Our committee worked closely with the Department of Justice, the National Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Social Welfare and Development,” she stated.
President Rodrigo Duterte invited the accused to Malacaang in November 2020, when they were given paper banknotes wrapped in “pastillas” wrappers to nibble on.
The President canceled their “snack” out of respect for Guevarra, who was also at the Palace at the time, but declared he wanted them expelled from the service.