Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd of the Department of Justice on Wednesday ordered Bureau of Immigration (BI) Commissioner Jaime Morente to return P20 million of the P50 million in alleged bribe money from a business tycoon either to the DOJ or the National Bureau of Investigation for “safekeeping.”
The P50 million, which came from gambling magnate Jack Lam, ended up in the hands of Immigration Associate Commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles, who have since been sacked over the alleged bribery.
In a one-page memorandum, dated December 21, 2016, the DOJ chief cited Morente’s admission that the BI’s former Intelligence chief Charles Calima’s planned counter-intelligence operation against Argosino and Robles’ alleged extortion activities had Morente’s “guidance.”
For fear that the P20 million will be used in some other activities, Aguirre sought to secure the bribe money.
“In view of your express admission that you authorized Gen. Charles T. Calima, the former acting Intelligence chief of the BI, to conduct a counter-intelligence operation in connection [with]the alleged P50-million extortion purportedly committed by former Commissioners Al C. Argosino and Michael B. Robles, and in order to preserve the evidence of such extortion activity, you are hereby directed to turn over within twenty-four hours the remaining P20 million to this department for safekeeping or to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the agency conducting the investigation of the alleged extortion incident,” the memorandum read.
Argosino and Robles were accused of receiving the P50-million payoff from the camp of Lam.
A newspaper column on December 10 revealed that Argosino and Robles allegedly extorted money from Lam, through retired police chief superintendent Wally Sombero, in exchange for the release of 600 undocumented Chinese workers who were among those arrested at the Fontana Leisure Park and Casino Hotel in Pampanga.
Argosino and Robles faced the press and admitted that they received P30 million from Sombero but said they received and kept the money to use it later as an evidence of corruption.
They added that they also want to know more about supposed syndicates operating in the Immigration bureau that deploy undocumented foreigners to unlicensed gaming establishments inside the Fontana Resort.
The bribe was meant to secure the release of 1,316 illegal Chinese workers at Lam’s Fontana Leisure Park and Casino Inc. in Clark.
The arrested workers were allegedly involved in illegal online gambling operations.
Aguirre also ordered Morente to submit all reports submitted by Calima pertaining to the supposed counter-intelligence operation prior to his sacking.
He sacked Calima after Argosino and Robles claimed that he (Calima) collected P18 million of the P50-million bribe.
Argosino and Robles said P2 million went to Sombero.