The former head of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) Ports Operation Division (POD) who was tagged as the alleged mastermind of the so-called “pastillas” scam on Tuesday denied allegations he has a contact within the Office of the Ombudsman.
Marc Red Mariñas, former BI-POD chief, categorically denied the allegations of Jeffrey Dale Ignacio, the second whistleblower who testified before the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality chaired by Sen. Risa Hontiveros.
“Hindi pa po ako nakakarating sa (I haven’t gone to the) Ombudsman. Wala po akong contact sa (I have no contact inside the) Ombudsman,” Mariñas said, responding to Hontiveros’ question.
Ignacio, an immigration officer who was one of the BI officials implicated in the scam, had earlier claimed Mariñas barred him and other members of the “pastillas” group from responding to a subpoena issued by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) during a meeting.
According to the witness, Mariñas told them not to worry about the case and that he has a contact in the Office of the Ombudsman.
But NBI Special Action Unit chief Emeterio Dongallo, Jr. said the NBI has requested the Office of the Ombudsman a copy of the CCTV footage as well as the visitor’s log book to verify the claims.
“I hope, for your sake, walang CCTV video,” the senator told Mariñas.
But Mariñas confirmed frequently hanging out with the other BI officials who are now being investigated for their involvement in the “pastillas” scam.
According to Mariñas, he considered these immigration officials his “batch mates” in the agency and admitted to visiting high-end night clubs and lounges with them during occasions.
“Pumupunta lang naman po ako dun kapag ako ay naimbitahan. At pinipili ko lang din po yung aking pupuntahan na okasyon (I only go if I am invited. And I also choose what occasion to attend),” he said.
“Hindi rin po ako nagbabayad nyan at hindi rin po ang mga kasama ko, kung hindi yung nag-imbita, (I am not paying for it, neither do my batchmates. The one who invited us pays),” Mariñas said.
Mariñas, who was earlier cited in contempt by Hontiveros’ committee, also reiterated during the hearing that he is not involved in the alleged “pastillas” scam, the bribery scheme practiced by immigration officers who allowed Chinese nationals in the country without proper documents or permits for a fee.
The issue surfaced during the Senate women and children panel’s investigation into the rise of prostitution and sex trafficking cases in the Philippines linked to Chinese-operated Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs).