MANILA — Columnist Ramon Tulfo Jr. should show proof that former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II allegedly protected the "pastillas" scheme or the supposed bribery of officials at the Bureau of Immigration (BI), Malacañang said on Monday.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo described Tulfo’s claim as a “serious allegation”, noting that authorities could not act unless formal complaints are filed against the former justice secretary.
“Mr. Tulfo, the one who is accusing him, should provide information to the proper authorities. Because unless you provide the authorities with any information or not, they will not investigate,” Panelo said in a media interview in Malacañang.
Panelo, also Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, said he did not personally know Aguirre, but noted everyone accused of any crime or irregularity is entitled to the presumption of innocence unless evidence shows otherwise.
On Monday’s Senate inquiry into corruption at the BI, Tulfo, citing information from whistleblower Allison Chiong, accused Aguirre of being the “protector of the syndicate” operating the pastillas scheme.
Tulfo claimed that Aguirre removed the powers from Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente and arrogated the power to assign and reassign Immigration personnel to himself.
He said it was Aguirre who appointed Maynard Mariñas as chief of Special Operations and Communications Unit and son, Marc Red as then-Port Operations Division chief to oversee the visa upon arrival system in the country.
The older Mariñas previously denied knowledge of the scheme which allows Chinese nationals to work as Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators in exchange for PHP10,000 grease money.
He left the BI in October 2018 when he ran for Muntinlupa mayor, but lost during the 2019 elections.
Aguirre, however, denied Tulfo’s allegation and vowed to sue him anew.
“The charges of Ramon Tulfo are absolute lies and complete fabrications of Tulfo. I was told that he was the only one saying that in the Senate. That even his so-called whistleblower did not say what he was accusing me of," Aguirre said in a statement.
Previously, Aguirre filed several libel and cyber libel cases against Tulfo and will soon be filing fresh cases.
Aguirre said he was ready to face anybody, insisting on his innocence.
He will be summoned to appear at the next Senate hearing regarding the pastillas scheme.
Around 18 immigration personnel have been relieved from their posts following their supposed involvement in the bribery scheme.
Despite the controversy hounding the bureau, Duterte has vouched for Morente’s integrity. However, he said Morente’s fate still lies in the results of the pending investigation. (PNA)