NBI files raps vs 19 BI officers, personnel over ‘pastillas’ trafficking scheme

Published September 2, 2020, 6:00 PM

by Jeffrey Damicog

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has filed a criminal complaint against 19 Bureau of Immigration (BI) officers and personnel for their alleged involvement in the “pastillas” money-making scheme.

NBI Officer-In-Charge Director Eric Distor said in a statement on Wednesday, Sept. 2, the complaint was filed before the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) on Tuesday, Sept. 1, following an investigation conducted on the scheme.

“Based on the evidence gathered, supported by photos and video recordings submitted by the whistle blower, subjects in this case indeed committed criminal transgressions and should be held liable thereof,” the NBI said.

Those named as respondents in the complaint are Grifton San Pedro Medina, Deon Carlo Albao, Fidel Mendoza, Abdulhafez dela Tonga Hadjibasher, Gabriel Ernest Mitra Estacio, Ralph Ryan Macahilo Garcia, Phol Bendana Villanueva, Abdul Fahad Guro Calca, Danilo Caro Deudor, Mark Dollete Macababad, Aurelio Somera Lucero III, George Bituin, Salahudin Pacalda Hadjinoor, Chevy Chase Reyes Naniong, Jeffrey Dale Salamde Ignacio, Hamza Usudan Pacasum, Manuel Brillante Sarmiento III, Cherry Pie Payabyab Ricolcol, and Er German Tegio Robin.

The NBI said it has recommended to the OMB that all 19 immigration officers (IOs) and immigration personnel (IPs) “be criminally and administratively charged with violations of Sections 3(a) and 3(j) of RA (Republic Act) 3019 otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.”

The bureau also asked the OMB that all 19 BI IOs and IPs “be immediately placed under preventive suspension to preclude them from influencing instant investigation.”

The NBI also recommended that IO Ignacio also be indicted for qualified trafficking in persons in violation of RA 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 and Empire International Travel and Tours owner Liya Wu for corruption of public officials in violation of Article 212 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC).

The bureau said investigators verified and looked into the sworn testimony of a whistleblower, an immigration officer who stated that “the Immigration Officers (IO)/ Immigration Personnel (IP) involved in the “pastillas” scheme conspired, confederated, mutually helped and aid one another in directly and indirectly requesting and receiving money, gifts, and other benefits, including sexual favors from trafficked foreign women.”

“These IOs/IPs allow foreign nationals entry in the country despite the absence of the necessary documents as required by prevailing Immigration rules and regulations in exchange for so-called “pastillas” money,” the NBI said.

The NBI said “foreign travel agencies, clients, and some members of foreign syndicates engaged in illegal activities in the Philippines would forward list of names of foreign nationals together with the arrival schedule thereof to their contacts inside the BI.”

“Empire International Travel and Tours owned by Liya Wu was named as one of the travel agencies paying “pastillas” money for seamless entry of their Chinese passengers. The whistle blower emphasized that Empire is the most popular and powerful travel agency in the BI,” the bureau said.

During the conduct of the investigation, it was also discovered that Ignacio recruited a Taiwanese woman “to work in the Philippines and facilitating and easy entry into the country despite the fact that she was only a holder of a tourist visa.”

“The lady Taiwanese citizen, after a week, was forcibly transferred to a POGO (Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator) company which she subsequently discovered to be illegal,” the NBI said.

“Her passport was confiscated and she was abused physically, mentally and forced to work like a slave until she was rescued by the NBI-Special Task Force (NBI-STF) on Feb. 3, 2020,” it added.