Senate body uncovers illegal airport scheme for Chinese nationals

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SENATORS on Monday uncovered an illegal scheme that allows the entry of Chinese nationals for a fee.

Senator Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel at yesterday’s hearing presented a video supposedly taken by an airport worker showing incoming Chinese nationals being escorted to an office at the Manila international’s airport.

The tourists’ identities were then validated based on a list of names and their corresponding flight numbers and photos.

Ms. Baraquel also showed screenshots of Viber messages among Immigration officers discussing the illegal scheme, as well as a worksheet containing the P10,000 paid by each of the tourists.

The Chinese nationals were allegedly allowed entry.

Immigration officials who attended the hearing denied knowledge of the scheme, prompting the senator to say that they were either complicit or negligent.

“This is the first time we saw this particular rundown of amounts,” Port Operations Division chief Grifton Medina told the Senate committee on women, children and family relations.

The Senate body was tackling the illegal entry of Chinese nationals who end up working in offshore gaming companies in the Philippines.

Some female workers had also been allegedly trafficked and forced to work as sex slaves.

Ms. Baraquel told reporters after the hearing it was unlikely that Immigration officials were ignorant of the illegal scheme.

She noted that if reforms had really been started, the bureau would have discovered the scheme a long time ago.

The lawmaker said the government must order a crackdown against unscrupulous Immigration officials involved in the anomaly.

The Senate committee will examine at its next hearing the cost and benefit of offshore gaming companies, whose operators and clients are mostly Chinese.

Also yesterday, the Justice department said it would follow the Senate inquiry and help in the investigation of the illegal scheme.

“The Office of the Commissioner of Immigration will initiate its own investigation on the matter,” Undersecretary Markk L. Perete told reporters in a group message.

“The department will closely monitor and supervise this investigation to ensure that those responsible will be held to account,” he added. — Charmaine A. Tadalan