THE OMBUDSMAN has charged with corruption 43 former Immigration officials who allegedly extorted money from Chinese nationals in exchange for a trouble-free entry to the country.

The bail for each of the accused was set at P90,000.

The officials committed graft when they allowed Chinese nationals to bypass procedures to enter the country, according to a 17-page indictment paper submitted to the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan by Ombudsman Samuel R. Martires.

Allowing the foreigners to enter the Philippines without the stringent profiling and screening processes were to the “prejudice of the government and public interest,” according to a copy of the document.

The rolls of money received by the agents were made to look like a Filipino treat called pastillas, from which the scheme got its name.

The Department of Justice’s own investigation of the scam would be finished soon, Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra told reporters in a Viber message.

He said the administrative complaint filed before the agency had a set of immigration officers different from the Ombudsman’s case.

In 2020, Senator Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel led a Senate investigation of the scam. A whistleblower from the Immigration bureau testified at a hearing that the Chinese nationals involved in the scheme had been blacklisted from the country and entered through a “special arrangement.”

President Rodrigo R. Duterte relieved all the immigration officers involved in the scam that year. — John Victor D. Ordoñez