'Pastillas' unwrapped, China goes after its citizens

President Rodrigo Duterte confirmed over the weekend the existence of the “pastillas” scheme by which Immigration officials allow Chinese nationals to enter the country illegally in exchange for bribes.

“I had it verified. There’s truth... that’s why I said, there’s no other way to do it except to suspend them and investigate them,” President Duterte said, referring to Immigration officials and employees in an interview with GMA News that aired Saturday.

READ: Ministry of Public Security of China

The bribery scheme was revealed by Senator Risa Hontiveros in a Senate hearing where she claimed that some Chinese nationals arriving in the Philippines would pay P10,000 each as a “service fee” in exchange for being allowed to enter and work in Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators even without government permits.

The Chinese Embassy on Sunday said China is cracking down on its citizens who are involved in telecommunication fraud and other crimes overseas.

“In order to crack down on cross-border telecommunication fraud crimes, the Ministry of Public Security of China has obtained a list of Chinese nationals suspected of committing long-term telecommunication fraud crimes abroad,” the embassy said.

The statement came after China’s Ministry of Public Security canceled passports of its nationals working in POGOs, particularly those suspected of committing fraud abroad.

“Such operations are aimed at the suspects of Chinese nationals who have committed telecommunications fraud crimes in different countries,” it said.

The embassy said China always requires its citizens abroad to “abide by local laws and not to work illegally in foreign countries.”

The Chinese Embassy said it has been coordinating with Philippine authorities.

“The Chinese side would like to continue to work closely with the Philippines to combat such crimes as telecommunications fraud, illegal online-gambling, money-laundering, illegal employment, kidnapping, extortion, torture, [and] as to effectively protect the legitimate rights and interests of nationals of the two countries, and to promote the China-Philippines friendship and cooperation,” the embassy said.

READ: Immigration man tags 5 in ’pastillas’

Thousands of Chinese nationals work in the POGO industry after Beijing banned online gaming in China.

However, the influx of Chinese workers has generated problems such as tax violations, kidnapping, prostitution, and more recently, bribery of Immigration officials.

A party-list lawmaker, meanwhile, said POGOs should pay the withholding tax of their employees.

Interviewed on radio dzBB, ACT-CIS Rep. Eric Go Yap said POGOs are getting away with merely paying their license fees.

“They [POGOs] have only helped us in terms of license fees of P6 billion a year to the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. The value-added tax has not yet been incorporated since these are off-shore [operations], they do not pay VAT,” he said.

“But POGO companies have to pay the withholding tax for their workers,” he added.

Also on Sunday, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian urged the Philippine National Police and other law enforcement agencies to crack down on Chinese syndicates in the POGO industry.

“The PNP, NBI and the BI need to step up their efforts in hunting down these syndicates who are not only into kidnapping... but at the same time have been operating prostitution dens and many forms of human trafficking. They should go to jail”, Gatchalian said.

Gatchalian made the call amid reports of kidnapping perpetrated by Chinese syndicates against their fellow nationals working in the offshore gaming industry.

READ: Abused POGO worker says PH government exec behind crimes

READ: Immigration vows purge of crooks

Topics: Rodrigo Duterte , Pastillas , China , Chinese Embassy , GMA News , Ministry of Public Security of China
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