Nearly 800 immigration personnel reassigned due to 'pastillas' scheme

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 27) — A "total revamp" of hundreds of immigration personnel was implemented in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) as a result of the discovery of the so-called "pastillas" bribery scheme, officials have disclosed.

Commissioner Jaime Morente of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said on Thursday the shake-up at the NAIA terminals 1, 2, and 3 covers all immigration employees — from the deputy port operations division chief all the way to the counter personnel.

Nearly 800 personnel were reassigned to different terminals and shifts, BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval added.

"Total revamp, pinagpapalitan natin lahat even yung mga counter personnel. We shook up the system... Para mabasag po kung mayroon mang collusion of any employees sa ating airports," she told CNN Philippines.

[Translation: Total revamp. We replaced all of them, even the counter personnel. We shook up the system. We did this to shatter the connivance between airport employees.]

An immigration officer exposed the irregularities at the BI during a February 20 Senate hearing, saying that 90 percent of the bureau's personnel were involved in the so-called "pastillas" bribery scheme, which allows special treatment to Chinese nationals entering the country of a fee.

On Thursday, Sandoval said the 19 officers who have been relieved from their posts are facing administrative cases, adding they may also face criminal charges after the fact-finding committee completes its report by the second week of March.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday warned that more people in the bureau will be removed from their posts.

Last week, Duterte vouched for Morente, who was also the former police chief of Davao City, despite the bribery scandal in his agency.