MANILA, Philippines, March 3 ------ Columnist Ramon Tulfo tagged former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II as the supposed protector of Immigration officials involved in the “pastillas” racket, an allegation the former DOJ chief denied. At the Senate inquiry into corruption at the Bureau of Immigration, Tulfo, citing information from whistleblower Allison Chiong, accused Aguirre of being the “protector of the syndicate” operating the “pastillas” scheme. “He castrated the powers of [Immigration] Commissioner [Jaime] Morente. The power to hire and fire and reassign Immigration personnel should be laid on the responsibility of Mr. Morente,” Tulfo said in a mix of English and Filipino. He said that Aguirre removed the powers from the Immigration commissioner and “arrogated the power onto himself, the power to assign and reassign Immigration personnel.”
Tulfo also pointed out that it was Aguirre who appointed Maynard Mariñas as chief of Special Operations and Communications Unit and son, Marc Red Mariñas as then-Port Operations Division chief. Tulfo also accused the father-son tandem of riding a chopper to Mulanay, Quezon to hand over money to Aguirre, an allegation contained in his July 2019 column at the Manila Times. Speaking to the Senate panel, the younger Mariñas denied the columnist’s accusations and said he only rode the chopper once, going to San Narciso, also in Quezon. He previously denied knowledge of the “pastillas” racket, which lets Chinese nationals have “seamless entry” into the country for a fee, but admitted to “irregularities” at the bureau.