Friday, February 21, 2020
BI authorities said that it was the first time for them to hear of the systematic practice, which the senator said was called pastillas because payouts are rolled in bond paper. Now compensation is more sophisticated, with payouts placed in envelopes and free lunch provided by the Chinese.
A whistleblower on Thursday, February 20, said that majority of immigration officers are already part of the "pastillas scheme" or the modus in airports allowing Chinese workers of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) to enter the country seamlessly.
At the marathon hearings on POGO operations, Immigration Officer Allison Chiong said that he had personally witnessed the scheme which started when there was a "dramatic increase" in Chinese entering the Philippines sometime around 2017.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, who chairs the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality which held an inquiry on the issue, revealed earlier this week that Chinese nationals pay ₱10,000 “service fee”, rolled in a bond paper like the wrapping of the milk-based candy, to have a special treatment as they enter the country.
From the ₱10,000 paid by the Chinese nationals, only ₱2,000 goes to the immigration officers on the ground and the remaining P8,000 is split among the foreign tour operator, its partner in the country, and the syndicate running the corruption scheme in local airports.
“This VIP service involved immigration officers accepting Php 2,000.00 for each high-roller, in exchange for the latter's convenient and seamless immigration.” said Chong.
In a week, Chiong said that involved immigration officers assigned at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 receive around ₱20,000 while those in Terminal 3 receive ₱8,000.
Aside from money, Chiong noted that Chinese organizations and personalities also give free lunch meals to immigration officers.
Duterte on Thursday ordered the relief of all Immigration officials and employees believed to be involved in the “pastillas” operation. 19 have so far been put under floating status as BI continues its probe.
The commissioner explained that it is the Justice Secretary who assigns the heads of divisions while he submits the shortlist of recommendations, as stated in the Philippine Immigration Law of 1940.
"I do not even have disciplinary powers... that 's why I am working for the passing of a new immigration law which would correct the system," said Morente.
Nevertheless, he said he already ordered an investigation into the incident as well as the firing of the personnel shown in Chiong's video.
Hontiveros said there is currently no sufficient evidence to tie Morente to the pastillas scheme. She added that her committee will also look into amending the immigration law.
The sacked employees "will most likely face cases," according to Panelo.
Sunday, February 2, 2020
The president was impeached in December for abuse of power over pressure on US ally Ukraine to announce investigations that would have helped him politically, including into Joe Biden, a leading challenger for this year's presidential ballot.
Biden is among the candidates Monday in the Iowa caucuses that choose the state's Democratic nominee and mark the official start of election season.
The selection process in largely rural Iowa, coinciding with final impeachment arguments in Washington, will be closely watched as a sign as to which of 11 Democratic candidates are gaining early momentum to challenge Trump in November's election.
At only the third impeachment trial of a US president, Trump is all but assured of being acquitted Wednesday, the day after his annual "State of the Union" speech, which the president said will carry a "very, very positive message."
Republicans hold 53 seats in the Senate to 47 for the Democrats, but a two-thirds majority, or 67 senators, is needed to remove him from office.
A day before the first contest of the 2020 election, two days before Mr. Trump’s State of the Union address and three days before his expected acquittal, they and other Republicans appeared to be coalescing around a more nuanced argument: Mr. Trump’s efforts to push Ukraine into investigating a political rival while withholding critical military aid might not have been appropriate. But that did not warrant the president’s removal from office for the first time in American history.
Adam Schiff, the leader of the House prosecutors, known as impeachment managers, told CBS on Sunday that it was "pretty remarkable" that senators on both sides had acknowledged that Democrats proved their case against the president.
Mr. Alexander first took that position last week, when he announced that he would vote against the consideration of new witnesses and documents in Mr. Trump’s trial. He acknowledged the merits of the House case for removing the president on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress: that the president had withheld nearly $400 million in military aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and other Democrats.
Republican Senators Lamar Alexander and Joni Ernst on Sunday said Trump's behavior was troubling but not impeachable.
Alexander, of Tennessee, suggested Trump had been naive in asking a foreign ally to look into Biden and his son Hunter's business dealings in Ukraine, which Republicans have claimed without evidence were corrupt.
Then he added: "The bottom line: it's not an excuse. He shouldn't have done it."
But a senior administration official briefing reporters on Friday said the president will use his State of the Union address to celebrate “the great American comeback” and present “a vision of relentless optimism” encouraging Congress to work with him. Mr. Trump plans to pursue an agenda of cutting taxes again, bringing down prescription drug prices, completing his trade negotiations with China and further restricting immigration.