NBI lawyer, brother in BI face extortion, graft charges

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DAVAO CITY — A lawyer of the National Bureau of Investigation and his brother who is an officer of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) has been charged before the court for their alleged involvement in extortion activities dubbed as the ‘pastillas’ scheme.

NBI Deputy Director and spokesman Ferdinand Lavin identified the NBI lawyer as Joshua Paul Capiral and his brother Bureau of Immigration medical section officer Christopher John Capiral, as both were arrested on Tuesday in an entrapment operation.

The brothers were accused of allegedly receiving bribe money from members of the Pastillas gang in exchange for their exclusion from criminal charges.

The Capiral brothers were arrested after receiving PHP200,000 from the complainant, BI officer Jeffrey Dale Salamde Ignacio.

On Wednesday, September 23, the NBI Special Action Unit filed robbery/extortion and graft and corruption charges against the Capiral brothers.

Lavin said agents had been conducting an investigation on the Capiral brothers for more than two weeks and they established that it was John Capiral who approached the NBI.

“Yung kapatid na immigration officer, yun ang tumulay. Tinanggihan na yan ng NBI (The brother who is an immigration officer acted as a negotiator. He had been turned down by the NBI),” Lavin said.

Lavin said Joshua Capiral, in his capacity as NBI legal assistance section chief, reviews and evaluates the work of an agent.

“As a matter of practice, there are big cases and these are evaluated and reviewed to see if the charges filed by the agent are correct, and whether who were those who charged and what is their participation to avoid a shotgun case where everyone is charged without clear specifics,” Lavin said.

Before the entrapment operation, Lavin said the NBI flagged Capiral for initially recommending that only four of the 19 immigration officers be charged for their alleged involvement in the protection racket which allows the entry of Chinese nationals into the country.

“There was a series of communications to the point that he made an impression upon the immigration officials that they can do something about the case,” Lavin said. “We are looking at the involvement of around 30 persons,” Lavin said.

The NBI earlier recommended the filing of criminal charges before the Office of the Ombudsman against 19 BI officers and personnel for their alleged involvement in the money-making scheme while assigned at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

The BI personnel are Grifton San Pedro Medina, Deon Carlo Albao, Fidel Mendoza, Abdulhafez dela Tonga Handjibasher, Gabriel Ernest Estacio, Ralph Garcia, Phol Villanueva, Abdul Calaca, Danilo Deudor, Mark Macababad, Aurelio Lucero III, George Bituin, Salahudin Hadjinoor, Chevy Naniong, Hamza Pacasum, Manuel Sarmiento III, Cherry Pie Ricolcol, German Robin, and Ignacio.

Liya Wu, a private individual, and owner of Empire International Travel and Tours was also recommended to be charged for allegedly corrupting public officials.

Bureau of Immigration (BI) Commissioner Jaime Morente welcomed the arrest of a National Bureau of Investigation employee for alleged bribery and extortion.

“We welcome the entrapment of the NBI on their employee who was allegedly fixing cases of those involved in the pastillas scheme,” said Morente.  “This is a result of our previous request for NBI assistance in investigating allegations of corruption in our ranks,” he added.

It can be recalled that earlier this month, the NBI recommended 19 immigration personnel be suspended and prosecuted by the Office of the Ombudsman for violation of Republic Act No. 3019, or the Anti Graft Law.

“We will continue to pursue our campaign against BI personnel engaged in corrupt activities in coordination with NBI and other law enforcement agencies in support of President Duterte’s desire to cleanse the agency,” Morente stated.  “Rogue employees that are involved in corruption only smear the name of the Bureau, and should face harsh penalties,” he said.

Meanwhile, Morente added that they are cooperating with the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality, as well as the Department of Justice for the swift investigation on the alleged Pastillas scheme.

“We have submitted the documents and information requested for the investigation,” said Morente.  “We are working with those involved in the investigation as we are really serious in our goal of cleansing our ranks,” he added.

The Senate Committee earlier today conducted another hearing on the alleged Pastillas scheme.  The hearing concluded with the recommendation of the Committee to have a top to bottom reorganization, suspend all involved, and suspend the VUA system.

In January, the BI already suspended the Visa Upon Arrival facility, in an effort to slow down the entry of tourists following the spread of Covid-19.

“We also support the recommendations of the committee on the reorganization of the Bureau and the suspension of those involved,” said Morente. 

“In fact, we have already relieved the names that were mentioned in the hearing, as well as implemented a system-wide reorganization.  We implemented a total revamp of our airport personnel, all terminal heads, and all Travel Control and Enforcement heads earlier this year.  I have likewise recommended the immediate relief of the sitting Chief of the Port Operations Division, pending the resolution of the investigation,” he stressed.

Morente clarified that the power to suspend personnel and replace the airport chief rests with the Secretary of Justice.  “We have already manifested our position to the good Secretary, as we believe this action would be necessary while the investigation is ongoing,” he said.-Newsline.ph

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