Removal of overtime pay of immigration officers led to the ‘pastillas’ scheme

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 21) — The removal of the overtime pay among immigration officers years ago led some of them to resort to the “pastillas” bribery scheme in the airport, an immigration whistleblower said.

“In 2016, the Department of Justice removed the so-called overtime pay of immigration officers. Consequently, this resulted in general unrest and disgruntlement among immigration workforce,” said immigration officer Allison Chiong in his affidavit presented during a Senate hearing on Thursday.

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.

“To cope with the substantial deduction of their salaries, some immigration officers decided to offer ‘VIP services’ for immigrants who are casino high-rollers,” said Chiong.

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.

“The influence of these Chinese organizations and personalities became more apparent when they started providing immigration officers free lunch meals wrapped in Chinese newspapers. However, this recently stopped due to the travel ban on incoming Chinese nationals due to the Novel Corona Virus,” he said.