Sombero asks Supreme Court to stop immigration plunder case
MANILA, Philippines – Wenceslao "Wally" Sombero, the alleged middleman of Chinese casino tycoon Jack Lam in the Bureau of Immigration (BI) bribery case, filed an appeal asking the Supreme Court (SC) to stop the proceedings at the anti-graft Sandiganbayan.
In an urgent motion filed January 7 but accessed by media through the Sandiganbayan only on Tuesday, January 22, Sombero asked the SC to fast-track the deliberation on his motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO).
Argosino and Robles allegedly extorted P50 million from Lam through Sombero in 2016, in exchange for the tycoon's Chinese employees continuing to work in the Philippines.
Argosino and Robles asked justices of the Sandiganbayan 6th Division to inhibit because Associate Justice Sarah Jane Fernandez went to law school with one of Sombero's lawyers.
Sombero said Ombudsman prosecutors presented a "misconception" over his participation in the alleged bribery. Investigations so far show Sombero acted as middleman between Lam and the immigration officials. It was Sombero who handed the money to Argosino and Robles.
Sombero also raised the issue of the missing P1,000. The plunder threshold is P50 million, but resigned justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II earlier claimed they only have in their custody P49,999,000.
But a visit by the justices to a Land Bank of the Philippines (Landbank) branch where the money is being kept showed that the P1,000 is not missing after all.
Sombero questioned "who bears the burden of proving the P1,000 bills rejected by the Landbank counting machine are genuine."
If the SC grants the TRO, the anti-graft court would have to stop Sombero's trial and wait for the High Court to resolve the main case. Sombero would have the chance to seek from the SC other reliefs such as bail.
"Every day that passes without a restraining order being issued adds to the urgency of petitioner's application for a restraining order," Sombero said.
The last high-profile case that the SC stopped while on trial at the Sandiganbayan is former president Benigno Aquino III's graft case over the Mamasapano bloodbath. Solicitor General Jose Calida wanted Aquino to be charged with 44 counts of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide, instead of just graft. – Rappler.com