Aguirre sacks BI intel chief over extortion scandal

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II has sacked the Bureau of Immigration intelligence chief over an alleged extortion case involving other immigration officials and Macau-based gaming tycoon Jack Lam.

Aguirre confirmed this to reporters at the Senate on Wednesday, December 14, where he attended an executive session.

‪"I already ordered the dismissal of General Calima," said the justice chief, referring to Immigration Intellligence Chief Charles Calima Jr.

He added that he has also terminated from the BI Calima's deputy, Police Colonel Edward Chan.

Aguirre fired Calima through a memorandum dated December 13, the same day two other BI officials – Deputy Commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles – turned over to him P30 million, part of the P48-million bribe the two allegedly received from Lam.

He said the termination of the BI officials, as well as a similar recommendation to President Rodrigo Duterte concerning the two other immigration officials, will not have any bearing on the Department of Justice investigation into the case.

Argosino and Robles had alleged that the "bribe" was in exchange for securing a license for Lam's gambling operations in Clark Freeport in Pampanga, which had been temporarily shut down by government after authorities arrested nearly 1,300 illegal Chinese workers at the casino.

Lam's representative, Wally Sombero, had claimed that the two officials extorted the amount from Lam for the release of nearly half of the Chinese workers held by the BI.

In a news briefing after turning over the alleged bribe money to Aguirre on Tuesday, Argosino accused Calima of seeking a portion of the money.

Argosino and Robles had cases before the Parañaque Prosecutor's Office against Lam, Sombero, Norman Ng, Alexander Yu, and Calima for alleged corruption of public officials and violation of the Anti-Wiretapping Act.

Aguirre reiterated on Wednesday that the fate of Argosino and Robles – his "friends" and fraternity brothers – rests with Duterte as the appointing authority.

‪Asked why he recommended their relief, he said, "Like Caesar's wife, we must be above suspension and to prevent any interference on the conduct of investigation."

The two officials, who were part of Duterte's legal team during the campaign, claimed they did not inform Aguirre about the November 27 "bribery" incident as they took the money as part of an "investigation" and that they were just "framed up."

They are on leave of absence, pending the investigation. – Rappler.com