By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday called on the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to identify the travel agency involved in the new pastillas scam, in which Chinese nationals allegedly pay P550,000 each for seamless entry into the country.
“Akala ko COVID-19 lang ang nagmumutate, pati pastillas scam narin pala. Dati pang kasabwat sa korapsyon sa Bureau of Immigration (BI) ang mga travel agencies sa ilegal na pagpapasok ng mga Chinese. May pandemya na, nagpapakasasa pa rin ang mga nansasamantala,” Hontiveros said.
During an operation conducted by the NBI, the agency entrapped Vivian Lara, a liaison officer who was caught receiving P900,000 to process the papers of three Chinese nationals inside the office of BI prosecutor Atty. Arnulfo Maminta.
The Chinese nationals, Lara said, are clients of a travel agency.
“Mga Chinese na may mga criminal record nakakapasok dahil sa sabwatan ng travel agency at mga korap sa BI. I’ve called for a BI overhaul before and this needs to happen now as it seems the new scam features the same cast of characters,” the senator added.
Last year, Hontiveros led a series of Senate investigations on the pastillas scam, revealing that corrupt officials at the BI receives P10,000 for every unchecked entry of a Chinese national.
The senator also previously uncovered that the travel agencies involved in the scam offer to help Chinese who want to get their names off the BI’s blacklist for a price.
“This is a direct threat to our national security. We’ve already established that Chinese syndicates have exploited our women and children, among many other unspeakable crimes. Isa sa mga pasimuno ng pagpapasok sa kanila ay mga travel agencies na dati pa ay nagbebenta na ng fake passorts at iba pang pekeng government documents para sa mga Chinese,” Hontiveros said.
The senator then reiterated her call to permanently abolish the Visa Upon Arrival (VUA) system for Chinese nationals, which is what most syndicates use to traffic women into the country.
She added that Chinese visitors should enter the country through channels monitored by the Department of Foreign Affairs.
“Dapat matapos na ang VUA. Dapat masibak na ang mga bulok na opisyal sa BI. Dapat mapanagot na ang mga travel agencies. Dapat magkaroon na bakuna kontra korapsyon dahil baka ito pa ang ikamamatay ng Pilipino,” Hontiveros concluded. (AI/MTVN)