Instead of being embarrassed, Immigration Commissioner Siegfred Mison welcomed the ongoing congressional inquiry into the anomalous delay in the deportation of Chinese fugitive Wang Bo.
Unfortunately, the probe conducted by the House of Representatives’ committee on good government and public accountability has taken a rather strange twist.
Some lawmakers, particularly Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, directed their wrath on the news media, particularly the reporter who reported on a tip that the BI officials had extorted some P500 million from Wang.
According to Standard reporter Christine Herrera, the BI officials got P100 million for themselves and $10 million (P440M) for the 292 congressmen to coax them to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
She went on to report that the $10 million cash were actually delivered to the Batasan complex sometime in May after the Board of Immigration decided to “set aside” the undesirable alien’s summary deportation order and allow him to post bail.
A big chunk of the payoff was to go to the LP booty for next year’s polls.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Wang denied paying any bribe in order to be released.
When Herrera took her turn to answer questions, Barzaga came on strongly and demanded that she reveal her sources.
The lawmaker even urged the panel to hold her in contempt for refusing to name her sources.
Ironically, the committee is chaired by Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez whose family happens to own the Standard.
Romualdez, also the president of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa), must know about Republic Act 53, otherwise known as the Sotto Law, which protects journalists from forcibly revealing their sources.
We suggest that Romualdez treat Barzaga to a refresher court in these provisions of the Sotto law.
Barzaga and his colleagues at the Liberal Party must leave this reporter alone.
Instead, Barzaga must come clean and train his loud mouth on the BI officials who played “godfathers” to Wang.
Obviously, this Repizo and Mangotara, who are the LP cronies at the BI, must answer to a lot more questions.
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Mison had ordered deportation proceedings against Wang, who was taken into custody upon his arrival at NAIA in February because he was in the Bureau of Immigration blacklist.
However, the expulsion of the Chinese national dragged on as BI associate commissioners Gilbert Repizo and Abdullah Mangotara objected to his deportation, demanding documentation on his alleged case of illegal online gambling.
It surfaced that Repizo argued that Wang may have committed the crime in the Philippines, so he should stay and face charges here.
Mangotara, on the other hand, argued that he hadn’t seen the warrant of arrest against the alien.
For still unexplained reasons, the BI’s legal department sat on Wang’s deportation case.
Mind you, some summary deportation cases took only one day to implement.
Mison still believes that “something good” would come out of the congressional hearings.
After the initial hearing last week, the BI chief said the questioning has helped bring to fore the loopholes in the country’s obsolete immigration law, as well as the perennial problems in BI’s operation.
While Wang’s delayed deportation clearly smacks of irregularity, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said she believes money may not have changed hands because Mison blocked the fugitive’s release.
Mison summoned the Chinese Embassy officials who submitted the warrant of arrest against Wang and a certification that his Chinese passport was revoked.
Claim of payoffs to the congressmen seems an exaggeration or “salsal” in newspaper lingo.
But whether or not the allegations of payola to congressmen are true or not, they have no business pinning down news reporters for exposing irregularities in the government.