Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Wednesday supported calls for the conduct of lifestyle checks on officials and personnel of the Bureau of Immigration suspected of involvement in the so-called “pastillas scheme.”
He said he supported the suggestion of some lawmakers to subject Immigration officials and personnel manning the airports to lifestyle checks to determine if they were living within their means.
Senator Francis Pangilinan said the recent exposé of blatant corruption, abuse and trafficking surrounding the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators industry was appalling and must not be tolerated.
For the past three years, he said, the country had experienced an influx of illegality―from billions worth of illegal drugs slipping through the Bureau of Customs to illegal immigrants claiming housing and job opportunities that should have been for Filipinos first, and to the ever-increasing cases of prostitution and sex trafficking surrounding POGO that target Filipino women and children.
Meanwhile, the Manila International Airport Authority on Wednesday sympathized with the Bureau of Immigration which has been under fire for the alleged bribery scheme involving its officials and Chinese workers in the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators
We sympathize with the bureau if that has been the label [to them], so we are hoping that this will be fixed’’ MIAA General Manager Eddie Monreal said in a Malacañang briefing.
According to Guevarra, lifestyle checks are often conducted in government agencies such as the Bureau of Internal Revenue and Bureau of Customs to verify if the employees and government officials are living beyond their means.
I support Sen. [Risa] Hontiveros’ recommendation to conduct such a lifestyle check on suspected corrupt personnel of the BI, in the same way that lifestyle checks are conducted on suspected BIR, BOC and other government officials and employees,’’ Guevarra said in a text message.
But he said the results of lifestyle checks alone could not be used to determine if a government employee or official was indeed corrupt.
A lifestyle check is not conclusive but only indicative of a government employee’s possible unethical conduct,’’ he said.
Guevarra also said there was no need to issue another department order for the National Bureau of Investigation to look into the allegations of the “pastillas scheme” reportedly committed by some Immigration personnel assigned at the airports.
He said the “pastillas scheme” would already be covered by an existing directive he gave to the NBI to look into allegations that there were Immigration personnel involved in human trafficking activities and offering escort services.
The investigation of the BI personnel’s involvement in human trafficking, escort services, extortion and other illegal activities is already covered by existing department orders addressed to the NBI. I have asked the NBI chief to submit progress reports on these matters to me as soon as possible,’’ Guevarra said.
During the Senate hearing conducted by Hontiveros, it was found that there were Chinese nationals who were about to be employed by the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators received special treatment from some BI personnel.
Each arriving Chinese national reportedly paid an additional P10,000 service fee, of which the P2,000 was divided among officials from the BI’s Travel Control and Enforcement, duty Immigration supervisor and terminal heads.
The remaining P8,000 was given to tour operators and “syndicates” who will transport the Chinese nationals from the airport to the POGO sites. With Macon Ramos-Araneta and MJ Blancaflor