MANILA—Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Friday expressed gratitude to the Senate blue ribbon committee’s probe, headed by Sen. Richard Gordon, for clearing his name in the alleged PHP50 million extortion case involving officials of the Bureau of Immigration (BI).
“I am thankful to Senator Richard Gordon for clearing my name of any involvement in this matter or in any of the issues heard before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee. My integrity is very important to me,” Aguirre said in a statement.
“Senator Gordon confirmed what is true all along, I am innocent of any irregularity in this case,” he added.
Aguirre also assured the public and Pres. Rodrigo Duterte that he would do his best to preserve the trust and confidence as secretary of the Department of Justice.
“Moving forward, let me assure President Duterte and the Filipino people, that I will endeavor to keep and to preserve the trust and the confidence reposed in me as your Secretary of Justice,” Aguirre noted.
The case was previously cited in news reports as a bribery. However, Gordon said that it was an extortion.
Aguirre earlier admitted that he met both Macau-based gaming tycoon Jack Lam and his middleman, retired police official Wally Sombero Jr., to discuss the request to release Chinese nationals illegally working in the country.
Lam owns an online casino called Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino in Clark, Pampanga which employed around 1,316 Chinese nationals working without permits. The workers were arrested on Nov. 24, 2016.
Gordon said he saw nothing wrong with Aguirre meeting both Lam and Sombero, noting that it was done in a public place — Shangri-La at the Fort Manila.
“I would not have the proof to say that he is involved,” Gordon told reporters in an interview after the fifth hearing into the issue.
Aguirre previously said that he only agreed to meet Sombero in the hotel because he was also attending an awarding ceremony in the same venue and that it was merely to save time and convenience.
Gordon said the least Aguirre could get is a “cautionary statement” for negligence. However, the senator said that he is “not sure yet.”
Gordon said that he also cleared Lam of any liability noting that he was “one of the investors of the country” and that his alleged bribe was not proven.