THE Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) on Thursday urged President Rodrigo Duterte to dismiss the head of the Bureau of Immigration for his failure to prevent Wally Sombero from leaving the country.
The Department of Justice issued an immigration lookout order against Sombero and several others in December last year in connection with the bribery scandal involving two former Immigration officials.
VACC founding chairman Dante Jimenez said Commissioner Jaime Morente should be sacked for being “useless.” He made the call after Sombero’s counsel, Ted Contacto, admitted at the Senate that his client left for Las Vegas on January 16 after asking permission from Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre.
The Senate is investigating the bribery scandal.
“Commissioner Morente is a useless BID chief. He could not even prevent a person listed in the lookout. And besides, his men are implicated in the bribery scandal,” Jimenez said at a news conference in Manila.
The anti-crime group is campaigning for “zero tolerance on corruption in the Philippines.”
It was Sombero who handed P50 million to former Immigration Associate Commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles in exchange for the release of 1,000 Chinese nationals arrested for illegally working in the country as employees of gambling operator Jack Lam.
Morente, at yesterday’s Senate hearing, admitted that Sombero was able to leave the country using a passport bearing the name Wenceslao Dombero.
Sombero is reportedly in Canada for a medical checkup.
The Senate Blue Ribbon committee on Thursday moved to cite Sombero for contempt and recommended that his passport be revoked after failing to attend the hearing for the third time.
Sombero instead sent a letter which was read by his lawyer.
In his letter dated February 8, 2017, the former police officer claimed that he was set to return to the Philippines from Vancouver onboard a Philippine Airline Flight PR 119, but he was not allowed to board the plane due to shortness of breath.
He said he attempted to board the next available flight but he was told by airport personnel to see a cardiologist first before he can rebook a flight.
Sombero was identified by Argosino and Robles as the person who tried to bribe them with P50 million.
Argosino and Robles accepted the P48 million but claimed that they planned to use the money as evidence against Lam.
Senator Leila de Lima refused to buy Sombero’s story and asked the committee to cite him for contempt.
“This is the third hearing he was invited, and the third time that he has not appeared and he was allowed to leave the country amid the controversy,” de Lima said.
Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the committee, however withheld the granting of De Lima’s motion and told Sombero’s lawyer to produce a medical certificate that will show his client’s medical condition.
Members of the committee were also disappointed after learning that Sombero was allowed to leave the country.
Morente was castigated by the committee for his failure to prevent Sombero from leaving.
The BI chief said he was informed by the Port Operations Division (POD) that Sombero had already left the Philippines.
“There was no derogatory information and he was not known to the immigration officer who processed his passport,” Morente explained.
The BI chief added that Sombero’s name did not register a hit because the name on his passport is different from the name indicated in the lookout bulletin which was Wally Sombero.
with JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA