19 immigration officers face prosecution over POGO scandal

Senator Risa Hontiveros has estimated P10 billion ($210 million) in bribes collected by the corrupt BI officials

The Philippines’ National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) charged 19 immigration officers of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) assigned at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) for allegedly smuggling foreign workers to work in the country’s offshore gaming industry (POGOs) without permits or approval from the government – this is known as The ‘Pastillas’ scheme. 

ontiveros to Duterte: Speak out, lay down plan to protect PH from China'NBI Special Action Unit chief Emeterio Dongallo Jr. asked for the involved officers to be suspended while the investigation is happening. Along with the 19 Bureau of Immigration (BI) officials, Owner of Empire International Travel and Tours, Liya Wu, reportedly facilitated the scheme and reached out to immigration officers offering kickbacks for assistance, he will also face prosecution. 

The BI insisted to have this proceed to court, as this would give the officers the “opportunity to defend themselves in the proper forum.” They added: “We are one with the campaign of the government to get rid of corruption and make those erring personnel accountable before the court of law.” 

After a five-month probe, the NBI said in a letter to the country’s Ombudsman on Tuesday that it found that the 19 immigration officers had violated the antigraft law, or Republic Act No. 3019. The workers were first arrested earlier in 2020with one whistle blower testifying in front of the Senate that POGOs paid P10,000 ($210) to NBI officials for each employee allowed into the country, regardless of their official paperwork.  

Jeffrey Dale Ignacio was also charged with human trafficking - accused of recruiting a Taiwanese woman who came to the Philippines intending to work for an advertising company, but was later moved to a POGO, and then finally forced into prostitution where she was abused. 

According to NBI Director Eric Distor, there were other personalities involved in the scheme and said, “Based on the evidence gathered, supported by photos and video recordings submitted by the whistle blower, subjects in this case indeed committed criminal transgressions and should be held liable thereof.” 

Senator Risa Hontiveros, who initiated the investigation to occur, has estimated a whopping amount of P10 billion ($210 million) in bribes were collected by the corrupt BI officials. That hasn’t been the first time the senate has called for an investigation into POGOs. 

SiGMA Americas:

Following the successful launch of SiGMA Europe (Malta) and SiGMA Asia (Manila), we’re now launching the inaugural SiGMA AMERICAS, covering all three major timezones. The inaugural edition is set for September 22-24, 2020 with a virtual summit focusing on two themes: SiGMA AMERICAS for the Gaming industry and AIBC AMERICAS for the Emerging Tech industry. We wanted to provide fresh content, to help you navigate through these turbulent times. If you’re exploring Americas as a new frontier or wondering which tech solutions to embrace, we've got you covered: tune in on September 22-24, 2020.

 

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