Duterte’s fraternity brothers guilty of plunder in P50-M immigration bribery case

Ralf Rivas

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Duterte’s fraternity brothers guilty of plunder in P50-M immigration bribery case
Al Argosino and Michael Robles, as well as retired cop Wally Sombero Jr., are found guilty of plunder in the Jack Lam bribery case

Fraternity brothers of President Rodrigo Duterte and a retired cop involved in the P50-million Jack Lam bribery scandal were found guilty of plunder by the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan.

Al Argosino, Michael Robles, and Wenceslao “Wally” Sombero Jr. were found guilty beyond reasonable doubt for plunder and violating section 3(e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

They were sentenced reclusion perpetua or 40 years in prison for plunder, and jailed for up to 10 years for graft.

Direct bribery charges against them, however, were dismissed. The Sandiganbayan ruled that the prosecution failed to prove all essential elements in the crimes.

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) officials were exposed in 2017 for receiving P50 million from Lam, a Chinese gambling tycoon, in exchange for freeing over 1,300 Chinese nationals illegally working at Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino in Pampanga. Sombero, a retired police officer, was the middleman between Lam and the immigration executives.

Lam has firmly denied the allegations.

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Their case was a controversial one, as Robles, Argosino, then-justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, and Duterte were fraternity brothers in the Lex Talionis Fraternity.

Aguirre earlier said that the three couldn’t be charged for plunder, as the amount that were taken from them amounted only to P49,999,000 or short of P1,000 to meet the threshold for a plunder charge.

The National Bureau of Investigation, which was then under Aguirre, only recommended graft and direct bribery charges, and not plunder.

Then Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales disregarded the missing P1,000 and went on to charge the three with plunder.

Aguirre was also implicated in the controversy for having met with Lam and Sombero on the day the money was received by Argosino and Robles.

The payoff among Sombero, Argosino, and Robles happened at the City of Dreams in Parañaque, with CCTV footage catching the scenes beginning 12:30 am of November 27, 2016.

Aguirre was cleared by the Senate blue ribbon committee and was not charged. –

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Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.