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Former BI official denies knowledge of, involvement in pastillas scheme


 

Bureau of Immigration officers including former Immigration Port Operations Division (POD) chief Marc Red Mari├▒as (in red) swear to tell the truth during a public hearing on the human trafficking in the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) industry Monday, March 2, 2020. Joseph Vidal/Senate PRIB
Former Immigration Port Operations Division (POD) chief Marc Red Mariñas (in red) and other Bureau of Immigration officers swear to tell the truth during a public hearing on alleged human trafficking in the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) industry Monday, March 2, 2020. Joseph Vidal/Senate PRIB

Former Ports Operation Division (POD) chief Red Mariñas on Monday denied having a hand in the alleged "pastillas" scheme at the Bureau of Immigration (BI).

"Noon pong panahon ko walang pastillas scheme na nangyayari. Hindi ko po alam ang pastillas scheme na binabanggit ni Mr. Allison Chiong," Mariñas said during a Senate inquiry led by Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday.

Chiong—an Immigration Officer 1 —said it is "impossible" that the former POD chief was not aware of the scheme, which supposedly involves easing the immigration process for Chinese nationals for certain sums of money.

"Napangalanan po 'yan na pastillas scheme so it could be a jargon but with regards po sa operation, kaya nga po nabanggit ang pangalan ni Mr. Red Mariñas ay dahil siya po ang POD chief at that time... Imposible po [na hindi niya alam]," Chiong said.

Mariñas also denied the whistleblower's claim that he "installed" Traffic Control Enforcement Unit (TCEU) head Erwin Ortanez during his tenure at the Bureau of Immigration, pointing out that he doesn't possess appointing authority.

"Ako daw po ang nag-appoint ng mga heads ng different units at the airport. Your honor, I have no appointing authority as acting chief of POD. I merely endorsed their appointments on the basis of their experience, knowledge of operations, people management skills and because they have my trust and confidence," he said.

Other TCEU officers whom Chiong claimed as being involved in the scheme also denied any knowledge of the sources of the supposed list of Chinese nationals' names entering through the scheme.

Failure to submit SALNs

During the hearing, Hontiveros also bared that Mariñas failed to submit his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) for the years 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018.

The latter said that his 201 files for the said years went missing.

Meanwhile, the senator also noted that for 2017 when Mariñas was able to file his SALN, the stated amount was smaller than that of his staff.

"Just looking at your 2017, kung kailan nakapag-file kayo ng SALN, 'yung stated amount ay P5,545,000 samantalanag 'yung kay Mr. Fidel Mendoza [a member of Mariñas' staff] na to his credit taun-taon nag-submit ng kaniyang SALN... si Mr. Mendoza na Security Guard II ay nakapag-file ng P9,906,000," Hontiveros said. "Isa na namang misteryo bakit ganoon, mas mataas pa ang nai-file ng isang security guard," she added.

On the other hand, Mariñas revealed that Chiong, who serves as a witness at the Senate probe, had been suspended before for an administrative case.

Chiong confirmed that he was suspended for a month but clarified that the case was "mere harassment" against him.

He said it was for an incident involving the issuance of balikbayan visas and is not in any way connected to money. — BM, GMA News

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