AN OPPOSITION senator urged the government of President Rodrigo R. Duterte to deport Chinese criminals with links to offshore gaming companies here and who bribed their way into the country.
“Deport these criminals,” Senator Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel said in a statement on Wednesday. “Filipinos’ safety comes first.”
She cited reports that $447 million (P22.68 billion) entered the country from September last year to February, half of which was traced to Chinese nationals.
“Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGO) are a big mess,” Ms. Baraquel said. “POGO brings in crimes. Let’s catch the blacklisted and those involved in money laundering and other crimes. They need to be deported immediately,” she added.
Senator Richard J. Gordon earlier claimed Chinese nationals had brought in more than $160 million in cash into the country since December, and raised the possibility of money laundering activities.
He said Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGO) were probably being used as fronts for Chinese spies.
The Immigration bureau earlier said it had revamped workers at Terminals 1 to 3 of the international airport in Manila after the “recent resurgence of unauthorized activities and irregularities” there.
The agency relieved 19 officials and employees allegedly involved in a bribery scheme that allowed the illegal entry of Chinese nationals who end up working in offshore gaming companies here.
Ms. Baraquel earlier showed a video of incoming Chinese nationals being escorted to an office at the international airport in Manila.
She also showed screenshots of Viber messages among Immigration officers discussing the bribery scheme, as well as a worksheet containing the P10,000 paid by each of the tourists.
An immigration officer earlier told a Senate committee some blacklisted foreigners had been granted entry for as much as P200,000.
Also yesterday, Justice Undersecretary Adrian F. Sugay told reporters the agency would probably wait for the results of the Senate investigation of money-laundering activities involving offshore gambling companies before pursuing cases.
“We’re just taking our cue from the results of the Senate investigation on this matter,” he said.
Mr. Sugay said that the department was working closely with the Anti-Money Laundering Council.
“If there are appropriate complaints that need to be pursued we have told them that we are ready to help them to pursue these cases,” he said.
The Immigration bureau earlier asked the Justice department and National Bureau of Investigation to probe corrupt practices at the airport, including human trafficking and escort services.
Immigration officials have denied knowledge of the illegal scheme. — NPA with Vann Marlo M. Villegas