Hontiveros: Graft charges filed vs Immigration execs in ‘pastillas scam’ a victory for human trafficking victims

Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday hailed the filing of graft charges against the 43 Bureau of Immigration (BI) officials who are involved in the so-called “pastillas scam” or bribery scandal that allowed the illegal entry of Chinese citizens in the country.

Hontiveros said she is glad that the findings of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality, which she chairs, was taken into account by the Office of the Ombudsman in filing the cases before the Sandiganbayan.

“Tagumpay ito ng mga kababaihan at kabataang biktima ng human trafficking, lalo na ang mga naglakas loob magsalita gaya nila Carina and Ivy (This is a victory for the women and children who were victims of human trafficking, especially to those who courageously testified about it like Carina and Ivy),” said Hontiveros, referring to two of the witnesses who testified during the Senate panel’s hearing on the controversy.

“This shows that Senate Committee hearings can be a force for good, at pwede maging katuwang ng estado at law enforcement agencies para labanan ang katiwalian ( and that we can be partners with the state and law enforcement agencies in the fight against corruption in government),” she further stressed.

Hontiveros, who led the Senate committee’s investigation on the human trafficking and bribery scam, said they worked very closely with the Department of Justice (DOJ), the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

However, she expressed hope that the Ombudsman would take into consideration the fact that one of the respondents in the case, Jeffrey Dale Ignacio, is a whistleblower whose testimony has been key in unearthing these findings.

Ignacio, an immigration officer, is a self-confessed member of the alleged “pastillas” group who extorted money from Chinese nationals in exchange for a seamless entry into the country, saying he joined the group due to financial problems and lack of augmentation pay.

The group allegedly collected P10,000 per passenger as fee for a total amount of P1.43-million, in violation of Section 3, of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Among those charged by the Ombdusman include then-Deputy Commissioner Marc Mariñas of the Ports Operations Division, Liya Wu of Empire International Travel and Tours, senior immigration officers Grifton Medina, Edwin Ortañez, Glenn Comia, among others.

“Pinasalamatan si Dale ng 18th Congress in the committee report that I note was adopted unanimously by the Senate (the 18th Congress thanked Dale, in the committee report that I note, was adopted unanimously by the Senate),” Hontiveros said.