Senate panel recommends criminal raps vs ‘pastillas’ scam architects

Published January 26, 2022, 1:23 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

The Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality has recommended the filing of criminal charges against several Bureau of Immigration (BI) personnel and some personalities who were involved in the so-called “pastillas” bribery scam.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, committee chairperson, said the panel’s report, Committee Report No. 131 is now being routed for signature among senators.

The committee had conducted a two year probe into the supposed link between the rise of the Chinese-operated Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) industry and the increase in cases of prostitution and human trafficking.

Among others, the panel recommended the filing of graft and corruption charges or violation of Republic Act No.3019 and possible violations pertaining to anti-trafficking, plunder, and other possible criminal charges against those involved in the scam.

“If they think they can silence this investigation about the pastillas scam, they are wrong. It’s time to launch a complete overhaul at the BI. We are recommending the filing of charges against immigration personnel. We spent two years in this probe because we are resolute to hold those involved accountable for their misdeeds,” Hontiveros said.

“We have strong evidence—from screenshots to testimonies of our whistleblowers who are also in the BI. We are thankful for their bravery and their cooperation.

“Malakas ang ebidensya natin — mula sa napakaraming screenshots hanggang sa testimonya mismo ng ating mga whistleblowers na taga-BI rin. Salamat sa kanilang katapangan at pakikiisa. Ito din ay patunay na hindi lahat sa BI masasama at corrupt; may mabubuting loob na gusto rin baguhin ang mga nakasanayan na,” the senator said.

The Committee report also took note that the combined revenue streams from the “pastillas” kickbacks amounted to billions worth of pesos, and which, based from evidence, appears to have been cornered by the father and son tandem of Maynardo Mariñas and Marc Red Mariñas, with other BI employees under their instruction and command.

Marc Red Mariñas was former Port Operations Division chief at the BI, while his father Maynardo, supervised the Special Operations Communications Unit, which checks and audits visa upon arrival (VUA) applications prior to retiring.

The Committee Report also recommended further investigation into the liability of then justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II for his appointment of Marc Red Mariñas and his issuance of Department Order No. 41 which gave both father and son wide discretion over the approval of VUA applications.

“Kailangang palakasin ang check and balance mechanisms sa loob ng BI. Nang dahil sa mga tiwaling opisyal, buhay at kinabukasan ng mga Pilipino ang nasisira (We need to strengthen the check and balance mechanisms within the BI. Because of these corrupt officials, the llife and future of many of our Filipino people were destroyed),” Hontiveros pointed out.

“Bigyan natin ng hustisya ang ating kababaihan at kabataan. Kasuhan ang may anomalya, panagutin ang may sala (Let’s give justice to our women and youth. Let’s file the necessary charges against those who committed such anomalous acts),” she stressed.