Ex-immigration execs in Jack Lam bribery case detained

MANILA, Philippines – Two former deputy immigration commissioners were put in jail Tuesday, April 10, for the plunder charges they are facing in relation to the bribe they allegedly received in exchange for freeing undocumented Chinese nationals in November 2016. 

Al Argosino and Michael Robles, formerly with the Bureau of Immigration, went to the Sandiganbayan on Tuesday to post bail for graft and bribery charges under Presidential Decree Number 46. The decree penalises both the public officials who accept gifts in connection to their office and the person who gives the gifts.

Argosino and Robles were instead arrested for plunder, a non-bailable offense. They are now detained at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.

The plunder charges are in connection with the P50 million bribe money they admittedly accepted from casino operator Jack Lam for them to release 1,316 undocumented Chinese nationals who were arrested during a raid on an online gambling operation in Clark, Pampanga, in November 2016.

The two former immigration officials had claimed they only took the money for safekeeping, with the intention to use it as evidence as they probed the illegal online gambling operations. 

The Ombudsman would have none of their argument, pointing out that Argosino and Robles took 10 days to report to their bureau and the Department of Justice about the delivery of P50 million.

The graft investigators also questioned why, if the money was merely for safekeeping, the two ex-officials gave P2 million to Wenceslao Sombero Jr, the president of Asian Gaming Service Providers Association Incorporated, who acted as Lam’s go-between. 

Sombero is himself facing plunder charges, and also the subject of an arrest warrant. He is scheduled to appear at the Sandiganbayan on Wednesday, April 11, for his pending motion to quash. 

Lawyer Ruth Ferrer, Sandiganbayan Sixth Division clerk of court, said Argosino and Robles are considered to have voluntarily surrendered. They can file a motion for the withdrawal of their cash bonds (P60,000 each) in the bailable cases.

They and Sombero, she said, can file a petition to set bail, and thereby challenge the sufficiency of the evidence that the prosecution holds against them. 

Lam himself is facing arrest for bribery, graft, and violation of PD 46. All his cases are bailable. – Rappler.com