President Rodrigo Duterte said he was able to confirm, through intelligence information, the existence of the "pastillas" scheme within the Bureau of Immigration, in which Chinese nationals allegedly paid thousands of pesos in exchange for being escorted through the immigration process.
"I had it verified. There’s truth kaya ako sabi ko, there’s no other way to do it except to suspend them and investigate them, " the President said in an exclusive interview by Marisol Abduhraman on 24 Oras.
Duterte was referring to the Bureau of Immigration officials and employees who were relieved of their duties after being linked to the "pastillas" scheme.
The modus got its name from the Filipino dessert, because the money changing hands were said to be rolled up in bond paper, just like a dessert wrapper.
The President said that he trusted the information his intel had gathered on Police Colonel Jovie Espenido, whose name was included in the drug watch list.
Espenido was among the poster boys of the anti-drug campaign during Duterte's war against drugs.
"Malinis 'yan si Espenido. He's a victim of an orchestrated effort to discredit him," Duterte said.
In the middle of his interview with Abduhraman, the President watched a video featuring a man claiming to be Joseph Advincula, brother of Peter who was known as "Bikoy."
In the video, the man claimed that former senator Antonio Trillanes IV had "used" his brother for his personal agenda, and said the erstwhile legislator was the real "Bikoy."
"Truth will always prevail. He cannot claim ignorance dahil yung intel na ginamit ko did it," said Duterte after watching the video.
Trillanes, who was interviewed in a separate report, said that "no one should believe in the President's claims" regarding his alleged involvement in the "Bikoy" videos.
He noted the time that the President's supposed intel also pointed to the former senator's supposed foreign bank account in Singapore, which later turned out to be false.
Trillanes said Duterte himself later admitted "inventing" the senator's offshore account number to fool the legislator, who went to Singapore to disprove the claim.
The President then came up with what he said was the former senator's "actual" bank account, which also turned out to be invalid. — Angelica Y. Yang/MDM, GMA News