MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Sunday, December 11, announced that he has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to check allegations of payoffs within the Bureau of Immigration (BI) by gambling tycoon Jack Lam.
“I have tasked the NBI to probe for the truth behind these allegations,” said Aguirre in a statement released to media on Sunday.
Due to “massive payoffs,” more than 1,300 Chinese nationals were supposedly allowed to enter the Philippines even without the necessary visas and permits.
The Chinese nationals were working for the Lam-owned Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino in Clark, Pampanga.
President Rodrigo Duterte had earlier instructed Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa to arrest Lam over allegations that he tried to bribe Aguirre and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) Chairperson Andrea Domingo.
Both the NBI and BI are attached agencies of the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Aguirre had earlier said the BI would be the focus of anti-corruption efforts. The justice chief said that some of the Chinese nationals arrested offered P100,000 to P250,000 for their release. Apparently some 70 of them escaped by allegedly jumping over the walls of a temporary detention enclosure inside Fontana.
The justice chief pointed out that escape would have been impossible without help from immigration officials. Around half of those who escaped were later captured or surrendered.
Since Dela Rosa’s announcement of Duterte’s orders, Lam has supposedly sent feelers for a possible return. According to the BI, Lam left the Philippines last November 29, ahead of Duterte’s order for his arrest.
Duterte said Lam felt bad for some 6,000 Filipinos left jobless back in Pampanga.
The President also laid down several conditions for Lam’s planned return, including the payment of all taxes, a stop to bribes, and a change to a contract he earlier signed with the Philippine government.
“We will leave no stone unturned and there will be no sacred cows. We will hold those found responsible accountable. Corruption of any kind has no place in the DOJ family, it has no place in government,” said Aguirre.
Despite Duterte’s orders to have Lam arrested, however, there is no standard arrest warrant for the gambling tycoon. – Rappler.com
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