President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday ordered the sacking of officials and employees of the Bureau of Immigration who allegedly accepted grease money from Chinese online gambling workers.

Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo said the immigration personnel were placed on floating status pending an investigation.

“The President considers this as an anomaly which is defined – by either by media or from whatever – as ‘pastillas’ scheme, as a grave form of corruption which cannot and will never be countenanced by this government,” he told reporters.

“As we have repeatedly stressed, there are no sacred cows in this administration. Any official or employee who commits any wrongdoing, any transgression of the law in the performance of their respective duties will be meted with punishment that they deserve in accordance with our penal laws. The present situation in the Bureau of Immigration, as well as how the present Immigration Commissioner run it will be taken up in the next Cabinet meeting,” he added.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who exposed the scheme on Monday, said the pastillas scheme was only the tip of the iceberg.

On Thursday, she presented a whistleblower, immigration officer Allison Chiong, who said most immigration officers were in on the scheme to let in Chinese workers in exchange for regular grease money.

Hontiveros noted that of the P10,000 usually paid by Chinese workers to enter the country, only P2,000 went to immigration officers.

“This is bigger than the frontline employees. We need to protect the innocent, ensure that our borders are protected, go after the big fish, create systemic change [inside the] Bureau of Immigration,” she said.

“Filipinos should be in control of our borders at immigration, not the Chinese,” she added. (