Ombudsman suspends 44 BI execs over ’pastillas’ scam

The Office of the Ombudsman has issued a suspension order against 44 Bureau of Immigration officials accused of involvement in the so-called "pastillas" scheme.

This developed as President Rodrigo Duterte said on Tuesday that resignation does not save corrupt officials from being held accountable.

Ombudsman Samuel Martires confirmed the suspension of several BI officials on Tuesday but did not disclose their identities. He said the order was served last Monday.

Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros said the scam and BI’s visa upon arrival system generated P40 billion in bribery money.

The National Bureau of Investigation threatened to file cases against immigration officials for their involvement in the bribery scheme that allowed the entry of Chinese workers into the Philippines in exchange for a "service fee."

Earlier this month, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the Immigration personnel implicated in the “pastillas” scheme had been reshuffled.

They were relieved of their duties at the airports and were recalled to their mother units, Guevarra told reporters.

He said an internal body had initiated administrative proceedings against those involved.

“At the same time, I have reconstituted the board of discipline to commence administrative proceedings against them and other BI personnel suspected of corruption, misconduct and other acts inimical to the service,” Guevarra said.

The NBI earlier recommended the filing of criminal charges before the Ombudsman against 19 Immigration officers and personnel for their alleged involvement in the money-making scheme while assigned at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

They were Grifton San Pedro Medina, Deon Carlo Albao, Fidel Mendoza, Abdulhafez dela Tonga Handjibasher, Gabriel Ernest Estacio, Ralph Garcia, Phol Villanueva, Abdul Calaca, Danilo Deudor, Mark Macababad, Aurelio Lucero III, George Bituin, Salahudin Hadjinoor, Chevy Naniong, Hamza Pacasum, Manuel Sarmiento III, Cherry Pie Ricolcol, German Robin and Jeffrey Dale Salamde Ignacio.

Meanwhile, despite the President's pronouncement in his weekly televised update, at least for 11 of his administration’s officials have faced allegations of corruption and then left government.

According to GMA News Research, at least 11 high profile officials resigned amid a corruption controversy, while nine were fired.

Those who resigned from their posts included former Immigration Deputy Commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles, who quit after being implicated in a P50-million BI bribery scandal.

The list includes former Bureau of Customs chief Nicanor Faeldon (resigned over multiple corruption allegations, including those involving drug shipment; later named Deputy Administrator of Office of Civil Defense);

Ex-National Irrigation Authority Administration Peter Laviña (resigned amid allegations he solicits money from contractors);

Ex-Secretary Rodolfo Salalima of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (resigned after the President accused him of favoring his previous employer);

Former Commission on Higher Education Chair Patricia Licuanan (accused of going on foreign trips without the President's approval);

Ex-Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre (resigned over dismissal of cases involving drug lords, admission of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Napoles into witness protection);

Ex-Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo (resigned after state auditors flagged a P60 million DOT advertisement on her brother Ben Tulfo’s show);

Former Tourism Promotions Board chief Cesar Montano (resigned after probe on alleged questionable P320 million Buhay Carinderia culinary tourism project);

Ex-Bureau of Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña (transferred as Director General of Technical Education and Skills Development Authority amid allegations of corruption); and

Former Philippine Health Insurance Corp. President Ricardo Morales (resigned after allegations that PhilHealth officials pocketed P15 billion out of the Internal Reimbursement Mechanism)

Those who were fired due to corruptions allegations were:

Former Secretary Ismael Sueño of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) (fired in April 2017 over alleged abuse of authority over the purchase of Australian-made fire trucks);

Former Sugar Regulatory Administration chief Anna Panel (fired for hiring consultants each receiving a monthly salary worth P200,000);

Ex-Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) chief Jose Salazar (fired after he allegedly tried to influence an ERC procurement process in favor of a supplier);

Former chairperson Terry Ridon of the Philippine Commission for the Urban Poor (fired for alleged numerous trips abroad);

Ex-Marina Administrator Marcial Amaro III (fired for alleged numerous trips abroad);

Former Assistant Secretary Mark Tolentino of Department of Transportation (fired over alleged dealings with the President’s sister in connection with the Mindanao Railway Project);

Government Corporate Counsel Rudolf Philip Jurado (fired over alleged issuance of legal opinion justifying 75-year gaming franchise to a freeport locator in Aurora);

Ex-PhilHealth President Ma. Jude Celestina dela Serna (fired over alleged excessive travels, fund mismanagement);

Former Social Security System chairman Amado Valdez and SSS Commissioner Pompee La Viña (fired after La Viña accused members of SSS Commission of were using their positions to trade stocks for their personal gains).

The Office of the Ombudsman has the power to "investigate and prosecute on its own or on complaint by any person, any act or omission of any public officer or employee, office or agency, when such act or omission appears to be illegal, unjust, improper or inefficient" based on the Ombudsman law.

The Ombudsman also "has primary jurisdiction over cases cognizable by the Sandiganbayan and, in the exercise of his primary jurisdiction, it may take over, at any stage, from any investigatory agency of Government, the investigation of such cases."

Topics: Office of the Ombudsman , Rodrigo Duterte , Bureau of Immigration , Samuel Martires
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